Seven Dead In Mid-Air Collision In Mallorca

 

Seven people including two children were killed in a mid-air collision between a helicopter and a light aircraft over Spain’s Mallorca island on Sunday, authorities said.

The two aircraft crashed over the central town of Inca at 1:35 pm (1135 GMT), the regional Balearic Islands government said on its Twitter account.

Everyone aboard the two aircraft — two on the plane and five on the helicopter — perished in the crash, a police spokesman said.

A couple and their two children were aboard the helicopter along with the pilot, the spokesman told AFP.

The helicopter was registered in Germany, “which doesn’t necessarily mean the occupants were of this nationality,” he said, stressing that an investigation into the victims’ nationalities was still under way.

Police said the two aircraft crashed into a field.

Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands are popular with both Spanish and foreign tourists, especially in the summer season.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez expressed condolences to the victims’ families, and said in a tweet that he was “following the news from… Mallorca with concern.”

Barcelona And Bayern Confirm Coutinho Loan Move

 

Barcelona have an “agreement in principle” to send Philippe Coutinho on loan to Bayern Munich, both clubs confirmed Friday.

Coutinho was left out of the squad for Barca’s La Liga opener against Athletic Bilbao on Friday, with club director Guillermo Amor confirming the Brazilian is close to joining Bayern.

“We can confirm that there is an agreement in principle for the loan of Coutinho to Bayern and we just have to finalise the deal,” Amor told Movistar, ahead of the game at San Mames.

Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic also confirmed the loan deal later on Friday.

READ ALSO: Athletic Bilbao Defeat Barcelona 1-0

“I can confirm that we were in Barcelona and have agreed terms with the player and his agent,” Salihamidzic told broadcaster ZDF following Bayern’s own league opener, a 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin.

“We have a good relationship with Barcelona. We are still missing a few details such as the signature and the medical, but we are happy to have got a player like him.”

Coutinho joined Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018 for an initial 120 million euros ($133 million), plus another 40 million euros in potential add-ons.

But despite huge excitement around Coutinho’s arrival, he has struggled to find his place at Camp Nou.

Initially tried in midfield, Coutinho was pushed into the front three by Ernesto Valverde last season in a bid to help him rediscover his best form.

Yet the 27-year-old was too often a bystander in games and some suggested his style and positioning clashed with Lionel Messi.

Gerard Pique was asked earlier this month about the possibility of Coutinho leaving. “I want him (Coutinho) to stay,” Pique said. “But at the end of the day it’s what he wants and I want him to be happy.”

At Bayern, the Brazilian will provide welcome reinforcement in attack following the departure of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery at the end of last season.

Coutinho’s departure to Bayern could also have implications for Barcelona’s hopes of re-signing Neymar from Paris Saint-Germain.

Barca have already spent around 250 million euros this summer and it had been suggested PSG were keen for Coutinho to be included in any bid.

“There is a lot of talk about Neymar at the moment,” Amor added. “He is in the newspapers every day and I don’t think we should get into it now.

“Anything can happen while the market is still open but for now there is nothing and Neymar is a PSG player.”

Athletic Bilbao Defeat Barcelona 1-0

 

Barcelona made a nightmare start to the defence of their La Liga title on Friday by losing Luis Suarez to injury and then losing 1-0 to Athletic Bilbao, after a sensational late volley from substitute Aritz Aduriz.

Suarez hobbled off in the 37th minute with what looked like a calf injury before Aduriz came on in the 88th, the 38-year-old striker who has announced he will retire at the end of the season.

This was a spectacular start to the finale as Aduriz threw himself into the air and acrobatically volleyed past Marc-Andre ter Stegen to send San Mames wild on La Liga’s opening night.

Atletico Humble Real Madrid 7-3 In Friendly

Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez (4thR) brawls with players from Real Madrid during the 2019 International Champions Cup football match between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid at the Metlife Stadium Arena in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 26, 2019. /AFP

 

Diego Costa scored four goals as Atletico Madrid embarrassed La Liga rivals Real Madrid 7-3 Friday in a pre-season friendly at MetLife Stadium.

Costa had a hat-trick by halftime and added one more goal before he was sent off in the 63rd, when both teams were reduced to 10 men after a testy shoving match.

“We started the game very poorly. In a top-level match such as this, we had a very bad start, Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said. “The players are well aware and they’re disappointed.

“We don’t need to dwell on it, this is a pre-season game. They were better in every respect and that’s all there is to it.”

The first meeting outside of Europe between the Madrid rivals proved a dismal night for Zidane’s Real Madrid, who saw Serbian starlet Luka Jovic hobble off after an awkward collision with Atletico keeper Jan Oblak in the 24th minute.

READ ALSO: Vermaelen Joins Japanese Side Vissel Kobe

Zidane can only hope the news on his injury will be better than that on Marco Asensio, who could miss most if not all of the La Liga season after rupturing a knee ligament against Arsenal on Tuesday.

Portuguese 19-year-old Joao Felix, signed from Benfica this month for 126 million euros ($142 million), scored his first goal for Atletico, and helped set up two more.

Angel Correa also scored for Atletico, who had run the score to 5-0 at halftime and 6-0 before Real Madrid got one on the scoreboard before a packed house at the East Rutherford, New Jersey, home of the NFL’s New York Jets and New York Giants.

Costa set the tone in the first minute. Put through in the area by Felix he fired across his body to make it 1-0.

Felix struck in the eighth, slotting home a ball that was cut back to him by Saul Niguez.

Real Madrid keeper Thibaut Courtois could only watch Correa’s 19th-minute blast into the bottom left corner.

Costa bagged his second to make it 4-0 in the 28th, Saul winning the ball after a poor pass from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos and sending a pass for Costa.

Costa made it 5-0 on the stroke of halftime, converting from the penalty spot after he was brought down in the area by Isco.

Atletico’s lead swelled to 6-0 in the 51st minute when Costa teamed with Felix for his fourth of the night, Felix slotting a pass through Real Madrid’s defence for Costa to arc over Keylor Navas.

Eden Hazard helped Real Madrid pull back a goal in the 59th with a cross that Nacho bundled over the line.

Minutes later Daniel Carvajal’s late challenge on Thomas Lemar saw tempers flare, with both Costa and Carvajal sent off.

Undeterred, Atletico grabbed their seventh goal in the 70th thanks’ to a superb solo run by Vitolo, who seized the ball from two defenders and beat two more to score.

Karim Benzema converted an 85th-minute penalty and Javi Hernandez scored in the 89th to trim the deficit, but there was little for Real Madrid to be proud of.

“I’m not concerned, but I’m hurt. You don’t play to lose. But we can’t be looking backwards, it was a bad game and now we have to focus on what went wrong so we can try and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said Zidane.

Welsh star Gareth Bale — reportedly on the verge of a lucrative move to Chinese Super League outfit Jiangsu Suning — was sent on with less than half an hour remaining but couldn’t provide a spark.

‘I Was Thinking Too Much,’ Says Osaka After Madrid Exit

Japan’s Naomi Osaka returns the ball to Belarus’ Aliaksandra Sasnovich during their WTA Madrid Open round of 16 tennis match at the Caja Magica in Madrid on May 8, 2019.
Pierre-Philippe MARCOU / AFP

 

 

Naomi Osaka admitted she “was thinking about too many things” in her 3-6, 6-2, 7-5 Madrid Open quarter-final loss to Belinda Bencic on Thursday.

World number one Osaka has claimed the last two majors at the US and Australian Opens and will be looking for a third in succession when she travels to Paris for the French Open later this month.

However, she admitted that knowing her top WTA ranking could possibly be in danger after failing to reach the Madrid semi-finals might have played on her mind mid-match on Thursday.

“I was just thinking about too many things. I wanted to win this match so much because she’d beaten me before — I didn’t want to lose twice in a row,” said the 21-year-old.

“People have been telling me if I get to the semis here, I can stay number one.

“I wanted to do that but I was thinking about it while I was playing, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing.”

The Japanese star, who will lose the top ranking if Simona Halep takes the Madrid title, will now head to Rome next week for the final tune-up prior to the May 26 start of Roland Garros.

“I’m really happy as my serve was my biggest concern coming in,” she said after losing for the second time in two months to Switzerland’s Bencic who also triumphed in Indian Wells.

“I wanted to play this tournament and I’m going to play Rome, too.

“There’s a lot of happy things to take from this because I lost in the first round last year so anything is an improvement, honestly.”

Bencic, a former top 10 player before injury struck several seasons ago, is now back in the top 20 and determined to lift her standing further.

“Of course I’m very happy,” the number 18 said. “I’m in the semi-finals, I beat the world number one and I turned the match around.”

She will have a chance to go further on Friday as she plays two-time tournament winner Halep, who booked her last-four-spot with a 7-5, 7-5 win against Australian Ashleigh Barty.

Bencic defeated former number one Halep on her way to the Dubai hardcourt trophy in February.

“It’s always long rallies with her. I don’t think that’s going to change,” said Bencic.

“But this is a different surface (than Dubai), a different city, different conditions.

“I’ll just have to try to play the same as I always do and focus on my game, focus on myself.”

‘I Am Responsible,’ Zidane Apologises After Madrid Loss

Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane attends the Spanish League football match between Rayo Vallecano and Real Madrid at the Vallecas Stadium in the Madrid district of Puente de Vallecas on April 28, 2019. Benjamin CREMEL / AFP

 

Zinedine Zidane apologised and said he wished Real Madrid’s miserable season would end now after they were beaten by 19th-placed Rayo Vallecano on Sunday.

Madrid’s response to Barcelona winning the title on Saturday night was to slip to a 1-0 defeat at Vallecas and fall 18 points behind La Liga’s newly-crowned champions.

Zidane took over knowing Madrid’s title challenge was all-but extinguished but the difference on Barca then was 12 points while catching Atletico Madrid, now nine ahead seemed achievable.

Adri Embarba’s penalty, given after consultation with VAR, was enough for Rayo, who move to within six points of survival, with three games left to play.

READ ALSO: Flying Eagles Arrive In Germany For U20 World Cup Training

“Today we did nothing,” Zidane said. “From minute one until the end, at all levels. Sometimes you cannot score but today we did not even create chances, did not play at all.

“We must be very angry. I am angry because the image we gave off today was bad. I am responsible for this as well, not just the players. But we have to apologise for our performance today, all of us.”

The gap widens between them and Barcelona, whose players had been dancing on the pitch at Camp Nou the night before and posing for photos with their children after wrapping up a fourth La Liga title in five years.

Asked if he would like the season to end now, Zidane said: “Yes, but we have to play these three games and do something different. We cannot end like this.

“It is about me as well, today what I did in the shape of the team, it didn’t work at all. We must respect football and what this club represents.”

Not since March 31 has anyone except Karim Benzema, out with a hamstring injury, scored for Madrid, who created precious few chances against a Rayo side that have conceded 62 goals this term. No side in the division has shipped more.

Zidane said last week that the league would be the club’s first priority from August but, even with new signings and fresh motivation, it could prove difficult to flick the switch. Madrid’s winning habit has long been lost.

Rayo’s last victory over Real at Vallecas was in 1997, by the same scoreline, and this time they were without their top scorer too, Raul de Tomas, who is on loan from Madrid and ineligible to face his parent club.

Zidane handed Gareth Bale another chance but he struggled to impress while Thibaut Courtois made his first start under the Frenchman, in ahead of Keylor Navas.

Rayo won their penalty in the 23rd minute as referee Pablo Gonzalez took advice from VAR before judging Jesus Vallejo to have hauled down Javi Guerra in the box. Embarba made no mistake.

Madrid wanted their own spot-kick when Mariano Diaz took a tumble from a corner but Gonzalez was unmoved, and the second half was surprisingly comfortable for Rayo.

Bale’s free-kick was palmed away by Garcia while Zidane threw on Brahim Diaz, Lucas Vazquez and Isco in search of some inspiration. It never came.

Top-four race stays wide open 

Beneath Madrid, La Liga’s last Champions League spot remains up for grabs after Valencia, Sevilla and Getafe all endured surprise defeats earlier on Sunday.

Valencia lost 1-0 at home to Eibar while Sevilla were beaten by the same scoreline away to struggling Girona, whose victory could prove crucial in their fight against relegation.

Both slips gave Getafe the opportunity to pull clear in the three-way race for fourth but they stumbled too, edged out 2-1 away to Real Sociedad.

Getafe stay ahead of Sevilla only on head-to-head, with Valencia three points behind and perhaps looking to the Europa League as their best hope of Champions League football next season.

AFP

Madrid Failure Puts Solari Under Fire And Faith In Youth To The Test

Real Madrid’s Argentinian coach Santiago Solari GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

 

Santiago Solari said he would not give up as coach of Real Madrid but the decision will probably not be his to make.

Zinedine Zidane earned the right to decide himself and chose to leave last summer.

“It would have been difficult for me to win again next year,” Zidane said in May.

“There have been good times but also difficult times. I do not forget that. I want to end with Real Madrid when everything is going well.”

Ten months on, Zidane’s exit speech feels like a warning.

Madrid’s season is up in smoke after seven days in which they were eliminated from the Copa del Rey, deemed irrelevant in La Liga and humiliated in the Champions League.

“I did not come to the club in such a difficult time to give up,” said Solari, after a 4-1 defeat to Ajax on Wednesday sent his side out in the last 16.

READ ALSO: Ajax Knock Shambolic Real Madrid Out Of Champions League

In the league and cup, they were proven to be clearly worse than Barcelona, their greatest rivals, and in Europe, inferior to Ajax, the club that are supposed to supply the elite not outplay them in their own back yard.

Three defeats, all of them in their own stadium, the last in the competition Madrid had begun to feel was their own after three consecutive triumphs and four in five years.

“Here lies a team that made history,” read the front page of Marca on Wednesday. “End of an era,” said Diario Sport. “The disaster is huge,” wrote Mundo Deportivo.

Solari had overseen a period of progress since taking over from Julen Lopetegui in November but the decline has been quick and familiar. Early improvement gave way to a lack of goals, which slowly sapped belief. Mediocre opponents took advantage and better ones ran riot.

‘Bigger problems to fix’

The club’s president Florentino Perez must now decide if Solari is worth keeping until the summer, although it is hard to see what would be gained by sacking him when there is nothing left to be gained from the season.

A new coach, with the same squad, would only surrender the feeling of freshness while for Perez, there might also be merit in waiting until June when more candidates could become available.

Yet he must be aware now of what Zidane was indicating, the sense that there are bigger problems to fix than the coach.

A Marca poll on Tuesday night asked fans who they thought was to blame, with 79 per cent answering either ‘everyone’ or ‘the board’ and only 7 per cent picking ‘Solari and Lopetegui’.

After years of under-investment, Madrid’s spine is creaking. Luka Modric is 33, Sergio Ramos 32, Toni Kroos 29 and Karim Benzema 31. Age is one thing but motivation is another. Success is hard to replicate.

Cristiano Ronaldo sought a new challenge with Juventus but was not replaced, either by a single star or two or three impact players that could collectively help bridge the gap. Mariano Diaz, signed last minute from Lyon, was not even on the bench on Wednesday.

Instead of marquee arrivals, the last of whom was James Rodriguez in 2014, Perez has shifted focus towards youth, with the likes of Vinicius Junior, Alvaro Odriozola, Sergio Reguilon, Dani Ceballos and Marcos Llorente all showing varying degrees of promise. Vinicius has been a revelation.

The problem is not that those players have failed to deliver but that perhaps they need a blend of experience to help bring them through. A summer spending spree might be tempting but could also undo all the good work done with a talented group.

If Solari cannot make a convincing enough case – and it is difficult to see how he can – in the 12 league games left, the choice of his successor will be revealing as to whether Perez’s faith in youth remains intact.

Madrid faces a trip to Real Valladolid on Sunday and all that is left is to overtake Atletico Madrid, who are five points ahead and reduce a 12-point gap on Barcelona, who are closing in on a seventh league title in 10 seasons. For all Madrid’s success in Europe, that domestic drought speaks volumes.

“We have a young team with room for improvement,” Dani Carvajal said. “It is clear the season is over but we will keep working in the league because that’s what we have to do, we have to be professional. That’s just how it is.”

AFP

Leaving Ronaldo And Zidane Was A Terrible Decision – Fans React To Madrid’s Loss

 

A youthful Ajax side ended Real Madrid’s reign in the Champions League on Tuesday, with a brilliant performance that stunned the defending champions at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Following the defeat, accusing fingers have been pointed in various directions, debates also have been stirred as to the cause of Madrid’s downfall.

Fans have taken to various social media platforms to air their views about Madrid’s woe, with many linking what can now be called a nightmare, to the exit of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane.

Below are some comments by fans and critics on Twitter.

READ ALSO: Madrid Failure Puts Solari Under Fire And Faith In Youth To The Test

Unhappy Madrid Were Too Soft Against Barca – Mourinho

Manchester United’s Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho reacts ahead of the English Premier League football match between Bournemouth and Manchester United at the Vitality Stadium in Bournemouth, southern England on November 3, 2018.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Jose Mourinho accused Real Madrid of lacking fight and looking unhappy against Barcelona on Saturday, just as the pressure cranked up on coach Santiago Solari after a second successive Clasico defeat.

Mourinho has been among those mentioned as a possible replacement for Solari, as Madrid have been knocked out of both the Copa del Rey and, realistically, La Liga’s title race within four days.

The fact that both losses came at the hands of Barca, and at the Santiago Bernabeu, compounds the misery.

After losing 3-0 in the cup on Wednesday, Madrid were inferior again in the rematch, as Ivan Rakitic’s delightful chip earned Barcelona a 1-0 win.

“I think it was not a happy performance,” Mourinho said as a pundit for bEIN Sports. “It was not the performance of a happy team, of a team with great belief and self-esteem.

“Clearly they are now in a zone after a few bad results, especially after the cup match, where they are in a low. They couldn’t bring to the game what I used to call the temperature of the big matches. They were passive.

“I cannot speak about a bad performance, it is just a soft performance. Sometimes you play like this against medium teams and in the end, you get a positive result, but against the top teams you have to do a lot more than this if you want to win.”

Former Real Madrid president Roman Calderon has claimed Mourinho will take over in the summer.

“I’m pretty sure he has general information about the club of his passion,” Mourinho said. “But he knows more than me because I know absolutely nothing about it at all.”

‘We will fight for it’ 

Mourinho also said it was “very flattering” to hear Spanish Football Federation president Javier Tebas saying last month La Liga missed coaches like him and Pep Guardiola.

Many will see Mourinho’s comments as conveniently timed given Solari now appears particularly vulnerable.

When Solari took charge in November, Madrid were seven points behind Barcelona but that gap now stands at 12. They have also lost three consecutive games at home for the first time in 15 years.

“Football is about being clinical and they were much more clinical,” said captain Sergio Ramos. “It is true with the consistency Barca are showing, they have increased the gap on us again and taken another important step towards winning the league.”

Madrid’s season, and perhaps Solari’s future, will again depend on them winning the Champions League. They carry a 2-1 lead into the second leg at home to Ajax on Tuesday.

“We need the league for fitness and rhythm so we must continue working and keep winning games,” Ramos said. “We have another final in the Champions League on Tuesday and we will fight for it. In the league we will try to reduce the gap.”

Ronaldo Back In Madrid Ready To Tackle Favourite Victim Atletico

FILES) In this file photo taken on December 26, 2018 Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo looks on from the substitutes’ bench prior to the Italian Serie A football Match Atalanta Bergamo vs Juventus at the Atleti Azzurri d’Italia stadium in Bergamo. Las Vegas police have asked soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo to submit a DNA sample as part of their investigation into accusations of rape made against the Juventas forward.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo returns to Spain ready to bury the demons of his nightmare Champions League debut for Juventus on Wednesday against one of his favourite victims Atletico Madrid.

The former Real Madrid player was sent off after 28 minutes in his first European game for Juventus in Spain last September against Valencia but the Italians went on to win 2-0 even without the Portuguese star.

Massimiliano Allegri’s Juventus play their Champions League last 16, first-leg tie against Atletico at the Wanda Metropolitano midweek as they continue their push for the European title which has eluded them for over two decades.

Juventus are pinning their hopes on their 100-million-euro ($117 million) summer signing to give them a first European win over Atletico, a team against whom the five-time Ballon d’Or winner has a long history.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for the 34-year-old Ronaldo who lived a stone’s throw away from Atletico’s training centre.

Juventus signed Ronaldo because of his Champions League credentials.

No player owns as many Champions League titles as Ronaldo who has won five, four with Real Madrid and one with Manchester United.

He has scored a record 121 goals in the competition and of these 57 have proved decisive.

“We have to score at least one goal in Madrid, our qualification depends on this,” warned Allegri. “The two teams are evenly balanced.”

Ronaldo has played the lead role in all of his five previous European triumphs — from his towering header for United against Chelsea in 2008 to the tie-clinching, 97th-minute penalty against Juventus last season in the quarters.

In between, there were the 17 goals he scored en route to the trophy in 2014, the title-winning penalty against Atletico in 2016 and the hat-trick against the same opposition, this time in the last four, a year later.

He would also score twice against Juventus in the final.

It was to become the beneficiaries, rather than victims, of these match-winning moments, that Juve decided the only way to win the Champions League before Ronaldo retires is to have him on their team.

Juventus won the title in 1985 and 1996 but have finished runners-up five times since, including twice in the past four years.

Hefty fine

Ronaldo’s goal-scoring form has been undiminished despite recent controversies, including rape allegations made against him by an American woman which he vehemently denies.

The last time he was in Madrid was to appear in a court in the Spanish capital over tax fraud charges last month.

Ronaldo avoided jail but was ordered to pay 3.57 million euros for committing tax fraud when at Real Madrid, part of a broader 18.8-million-euro payout.

He was handed a two-year jail sentence that was immediately reduced to a fine of 365,000 euros and another penalty of 3.2 million euros.

Nevertheless Ronaldo is riding high in Serie A where he leads the way with 19 goals scored in 24 games. He has a total of 21 goals in all competitions, including one against former club Manchester United, with 11 assists.

Allegri is counting on his inside knowledge against Atletico.

During his nine years at Real Madrid, Ronaldo played Atletico on average four times a year, mostly in La Liga but also in two Champions League finals — both won by Real.

He scored 22 goals in 31 matches against Atletico and also boasts a 100 percent record with eight penalties converted, his best record against any team.

Of the four European titles won in five years with Real, Atletico succumbed to their city rivals three times, in 2014, 2016 and 2017.

Copa Del Rey: Barca Cannot Underestimate Madrid, Says Coach Valverde

 

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde believes Real Madrid are enjoying one of their best periods of the season ahead of the teams’ Copa del Rey semi-final first leg next week. 

Barca drew Madrid in the draw on Friday, meaning there will be three Clasicos in a month and two in four days, with the second leg on February 27 coming just before their La Liga fixture on March 2.

Chasing a record fifth Copa del Rey success in a row, Barcelona will be favourites, particularly after they thrashed Madrid 5-1 at the Camp Nou in October.

READ ALSO: Copa Del Rey: Real Madrid Take On Barcelona In Semis

But their opponents have found form in recent weeks. Santiago Solari’s side have won six out of their last seven matches in all competitions.

“We see it as very even,” Valverde said at a press conference on Friday. “In the league, they arrived at a complicated time for them psychologically but now they are in a different moment, with more confidence.

“They are much better, getting better results and that changes a lot. A bit like Valencia tomorrow, we play them in one of their best moments of the season.”

Barcelona host Valencia at home in La Liga on Saturday and then face a trip to Athletic Bilbao next weekend, four days after the first leg against Real.

Valverde has rotated key players in the Copa del Rey this season and suggested he could do so again, admitting “we cannot neglect our job in La Liga”.

The Champions League also restarts this month, with Barca up against Lyon in the last 16.

“They are two great matches that come at a time when both teams are fighting for the top spots in the league and at the same time as the Champions League gets going again too,” Valverde said.

“It is a lot of important matches but we know that they are exciting for people, also for us, and it’s a great semi-final. Let’s see if we can make it through.”

Ousmane Dembele is close to recovering from an ankle injury but it is not clear whether the Frenchman will be fit for the first leg at the Camp Nou on Wednesday.

“I don’t know, we will evaluate him on Monday to see how he is,” Valverde said. “We thought for next week he could be available but I don’t know. On Monday we will have an answer.”

Barcelona also unveiled new signing Jean-Clair Todibo on Friday after the 19-year-old’s summer move from Toulouse was brought forward.

“He’s a signing for the future,” Valverde said. “But given his situation at Toulouse, it was decided he could join us now with the idea of settling in with his new team-mates.”

AFP

Spain Launches Drastic Traffic Limits To Ease Pollution

Cars and buses ride over signs reading “Madrid Central” on Calle Alcala street in Madrid center, on November 30, 2018. The Spanish capital has introduced an anti-pollution plan, called Madrid Central, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the city centre. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

 

Madrid on Friday launched an ambitious traffic restriction scheme in the city centre with which it hopes to reduce gas emissions by 40 per cent, drawing mixed reactions.

The “Madrid Central” system covers the Spanish capital’s historical centre and aims to “reduce pollution, noise and improve public spaces,” according to the left-wing city hall which points to the abundant offer of public transport and encourages cycling.

Madrid follows in the steps of other European cities like London, Stockholm or Milan that have restricted traffic in their centres.

In their case though, drivers can pay to enter.

In the Spanish capital, on the other hand, many drivers are banned altogether from accessing the centre and will be fined if they do.

Those who are allowed into the zone, marked off by a red line on the road, including residents, trucks carrying goods, taxis, buses, school, security and emergency vehicles.

Electric or hybrid vehicles belonging to non-residents are also allowed in, and the rest can only enter if they park in a parking lot.

Residents are also able to give out up to 20 invitations a month for people to enter without being fined.

In its first phase until the end of the year, authorities won’t be fining anyone and police will only inform drivers whether they can or cannot go in.

In January and February, people will start being notified of committing an offence, without having to pay a fine.

And from March, drivers who go in illegally will be fined 90 euros ($102).

Air pollution is a pressing issue in Madrid, where a murky cloud covers the capital on clear days.

But for some shopkeepers, it’s not entirely good news.

“They’re discriminating people according to their income levels,” said Fernando Ahumada, who owns a small cigarette shop in centre city.

“If you’re rich, there’s no problem. You buy yourself an electric car and you move around, but if you’re poor, in your car, you die.

“The fact a left-wing city hall is doing this is frightening.”

Ahumada says he fears his business income may drop as fewer people come to the centre.

But in the touristy, Las Letras district of Madrid, another shopkeeper, Juan Ramirez, supports the measure.

“I think it’s necessary, because you walk around and there are cars everywhere, and the air is filthy,” he says.

“People should use bicycles.”

AFP