Sergio Ramos, the former Real Madrid stalwart considered one of the best defenders in the world, has signed a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, the French club said Thursday.
Ramos, 35, won the Champions League four times with Real and is a World Cup winner and a two-time champion of Europe with Spain.
The veteran, who has won 180 caps and scored 23 goals for his country, arrives at PSG desperate to add experience to their squad for another assault on an elusive first Champions League title.
PSG sporting director Leonardo has also brought in Dutch midfield star Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi from Italian champions Inter Milan as the Parisians seek the right blend to conquer Europe and persuade France striker Kylian Mbappe to sign a new deal beyond 2022.
“It’s a big change in my life, a new challenge and a day I shall never forget,” Ramos said in a PSG statement.
Ramos, who cut his teeth with Sevilla before joining Real in 2005, played almost 500 games for Los Blancos, marshaling their defence for 16 seasons and winning La Liga five times.
He also scored some notable goals — not least his injury-time equaliser in the 2014 Champions League final against city rivals Atletico.
Real went on to win 4-1 to claim their 10th win in the competition and Ramos remained a mainstay of the side as they made it four continental titles in five seasons between 2016 and 2018 under French coach Zinedine Zidane.
Paris Saint-Germain announced on Tuesday they had signed Morocco wing-back Achraf Hakimi from Inter Milan on a five-year deal.
According to reports the Parisians have paid around 60 millions euros ($71 million) for the 22-year-old who won Serie A with Inter last season.
Hakimi started his career with Real Madrid before joining Borussia Dortmund for a season and then heading to the San Siro.
“I feel a great sense of pride today,” Hakimi said in a PSG statement.
“After Spain, Germany and Italy, Paris Saint-Germain offers me the chance to discover a new championship with one of the most prestigious clubs in the world,” he added.
The nine-time French champions are also reportedly interested in Hakimi’s former Real Madrid team-mate Sergio Ramos as well as AC Milan’s Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma but have already signed Netherlands midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.
Despite 2011’s multi-million takeover by Qatar Sports Investment and signing Brazil’s Neymar for a world record fee they have failed to win the Champions League.
“This calibre of signing shows the level of our ambitions – we continue to build something very special,” PSG’s chief executive officer Nasser Al-Khelaifi said.
“Achraf may only be 22 years old and has already established himself as one of the most talented full-backs in world football – these are the standards we set at the club.”
Former France striker Nicolas Anelka believes Kylian Mbappe will need to follow his example in leaving Paris Saint-Germain to play abroad if he is to be regarded as the best player in the world.
Mbappe, who joined PSG in 2017, is about to enter the final season of his contract in the French capital with speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid.
Despite spending four seasons alongside Neymar at the Parc des Princes, the superstar duo have failed to deliver PSG’s first ever Champions League title and even lost Ligue 1 last season to Lille.
Anelka had a brief stint in Madrid himself after joining Arsenal from PSG as a teenager in 1997.
“If you want the biggest accolades, you will have to move from PSG at some point,” Anelka wrote in an open letter published in The Athletic.
“Whatever you do in Paris will be good, but somebody will always say, “Well, you did great for PSG but it was only in France. The best leagues are in England and Spain, so you didn’t compete with the best players in the best league.”
Neymar said Friday Nike’s claim that it parted ways with him last year because he refused to cooperate with its internal investigation into an employee’s accusation he sexually assaulted her was an “absurd lie.”
The allegation is the latest to stain the image of the Brazilian superstar, whose 222-million-euro ($270 million) transfer from Barcelona to Paris Saint-Germain in 2017 makes him the world’s most expensive footballer.
Nike said Thursday it had ended its sponsorship deal with Neymar over an employee’s claim he tried to force himself on her and his failure to cooperate with its investigation.
“(To) state that my contract (with Nike) was terminated because I did not contribute in good faith to an investigation is an absurd lie,” Neymar wrote on Instagram.
“I was not given the opportunity to defend myself. I was not given the opportunity to know who this person was that was allegedly offended. I don’t even know her. I’ve never had any kind of relationship or approach with this person.”
Nike said the alleged assault happened in 2016, but was only reported to the company in 2018.
The US sportswear giant had sponsored Neymar, 29, since he was a 13-year-old prodigy.
It did not give a reason when it terminated its deal with him in August 2020.
The superstar is now a poster boy for Puma. His deal with the German sportswear giant was announced in September 2020.
‘They did nothing’
The Nike employee accused Neymar of trying to force her to perform oral sex on him in a New York hotel room during a promotional trip for a new line of sneakers, according to the Wall Street Journal, which first broke the story.
Neymar denied the accusation, and said Nike had nevertheless continued sending him on promotional tours.
“In 2017 I traveled again to the USA for another advertising campaign, with the same people, and nothing was told to me, nothing changed!” he wrote.
“In 2017, 2018, 2019 we made trips, advertising campaigns, countless shooting sections. And they told me nothing. Such a serious matter and they did nothing.”
In a previous statement, a Neymar spokeswoman said he and Nike had split for commercial reasons.
The player’s father accused the company of “blackmail.”
“It’s all very strange” that the accusation only came to light years later, after Neymar left Nike, he told Brazilian newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo.
Nike said in a statement it was prepared to investigate in 2018 when the woman first came forward, but “respected the employee’s initial desire to keep this matter confidential and avoid an investigation.”
The firm therefore did not go further until 2019, when she expressed an interest in pursuing the matter, it said.
That was the same year another woman filed a rape complaint against Neymar in his native Brazil.
He vehemently denied that accusation, and the case was eventually dropped.
Neymar is currently in Brazil training with the national team north of Rio de Janeiro ahead of two upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
The superstar seemed “normal, the same as always,” teammate Emerson told a news conference.
Neymar extended his contract with French champions PSG earlier this month, through the 2024-2025 season.
With his on-pitch exploits and huge following on social media, Neymar is one of the biggest names in sports.
But his shine has often been tarnished.
His image as an eternal spoiled child was revived late last year by rumors of a huge year-end party he organized in Brazil in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
He has also raised eyebrows with his alleged diving, hard-partying lifestyle, and love of bling, which critics say contrasts with the relative lack of it in his trophy case.
Twenty people were treated by emergency services, including three who needed to be taken to hospital, the statement said.
The police had set up a roadblock to control entry to the Grand-Place, the historic centre of the city, but supporters gathered anyway and were allowed to make their way into the square through side streets.
They waved flags and scarves in their team’s colours, in a red halo of smoke, to the sound of exploding firecrackers while singing “We are the champions” and “Freed from desire” and dancing.
The mood was generally festive and good-natured atmosphere.
On Saturday, the regional prefect Michel Lalande had called on the people of Lille to “enjoy this moment of sport in complete safety, in a health context that is improving but remains fragile”.
He asked “everyone to continue to respect all the health measures in force and not to set off fireworks on the public highway”.
In the final analysis it is tempting to put the outcome of the French title race down to Paris Saint-Germain’s shortcomings, but nothing should be taken away from Lille’s remarkable achievement in winning Ligue 1 for the first time in a decade.
PSG, despite boasting the two most expensive signings ever in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, did suffer eight defeats, their most in a single campaign since 2010-11.
Yet somebody still needed to take advantage of the Qatar-owned club’s slip-ups and Lille did that emphatically. They also took four points off PSG, including beating them in Paris.
“We have only lost three games. Maybe PSG have not been as good but Lille have been great,” said winger Jonathan Bamba.
Lille’s success is partly down to circumstance, and partly down to two inspirational figures.
The coach, Christophe Galtier, took over a sinking ship from Marcelo Bielsa midway through the 2017-18 season.
Lille just avoided relegation and then finished second to PSG in his first full season. They were fourth when last season was ended early because of the coronavirus pandemic, and now they are champions.
Galtier’s success is all the more remarkable given that the club has regularly sold its best players.
In 2018 midfielder Yves Bissouma was sold to Brighton. In 2019 they sold star forward Nicolas Pepe to Arsenal for 80 million euros ($97m), Rafael Leao to AC Milan and midfielder Thiago Mendes to Lyon.
Last year top scorer Victor Osimhen left for Napoli for 70 million euros, while Brazilian centre-back Gabriel joined Arsenal for 30 million.
Yet Galtier has brilliantly incorporated replacements and hugely enhanced a reputation that was already glowing following his record in eight years at Saint-Etienne.
But the one-time Portsmouth assistant manager’s success would not have been possible without Luis Campos, the Portuguese super-scout who built the Monaco team that denied PSG the title in 2017.
He was also the genius behind the scenes at Lille, the man who made it possible for them to sell Pepe and Mendes in 2019 and replace them with Osimhen and Renato Sanches.
Last year he replaced Gabriel with young Dutch defender Sven Botman while replacing Osimhen with Canadian striker Jonathan David and signing veteran Turkish striker Burak Yilmaz.
‘King Burak’ has been an absolute superstar.
Fittingly, both men were on target in Sunday’s title-clinching 2-1 win at Angers.
Campos, though, left Monaco a year before their title triumph and his relationship with Lille ended midway through this season too.
After 2017, that Monaco team was gradually broken up. When the title celebrations among Lille supporters die down, they might worry for the future too.
Their current team was only not pillaged even more last summer because of the financial impact on Europe’s leading clubs of the pandemic.
This time Lille will lose more players, goalkeeper Mike Maignan and midfielder Boubakary Soumare probably among them, but Campos will not be there to sign replacements.
New owners, new direction?
Galtier’s achievements are even more remarkable given Lille went through considerable off-field turmoil in the winter.
It was not just Campos who left but also the club’s owner, Luxembourgish-Spanish businessman Gerard Lopez, who under financial pressure sold Lille in December to a subsidiary of the Merlyn Partners investment fund.
“What has allowed Lille to be in the spotlight today is simple,” Galtier told sports daily L’Equipe in November.
“The president found funds to invest in players spotted by a man of incredible competence.”
Now they have both gone and Galtier may not be there next season either. He has a year left on his contract but may feel he can take Lille no further. He has been linked with French rivals Lyon and Nice.
Lille now have a new president in ex-PSG sporting director Olivier Letang, but French football is still reeling from the collapse of a record domestic broadcast deal with Mediapro late last year.
In any case Lille’s budget is smaller than that of Lyon, Marseille and Monaco as well as PSG.
The Parisians will almost certainly be back next year but Lille, champions for the fourth time in their history, will be able to say the success was fun while it lasted.
Neymar will not play for Paris Saint-Germain in next week’s French Cup final against Monaco after a booking in Wednesday’s semi-final saw the Brazilian incur a suspension.
The world’s most expensive player was shown a yellow card not long after coming on as a late substitute in the last-four tie in Montpellier, triggering a one-game ban that had been hanging over him since he was sent off in a Ligue 1 match against Lille last month.
PSG could still appeal the ban, thereby potentially releasing him to play against Monaco in the final at the Stade de France, which will go ahead behind closed doors.
“I would like to understand the head of the guy who made the rule on cards in France!” Neymar reacted on Instagram.
“He deserves to be applauded. What confusion.”
Neymar scored in the shoot-out as PSG beat Montpellier 6-5 on penalties following a 2-2 draw in the semi-finals.
The former Barcelona superstar, who last week signed a contract extension to keep him in Paris until 2025, scored the only goal when PSG beat Saint-Etienne in last season’s final.
PSG will already be without the injured Marco Verratti and the suspended Presnel Kimpembe for the final.
Before that game, Mauricio Pochettino’s side host Reims in Ligue 1 on Sunday.
With two matches remaining they sit three points behind league leaders Lille.
Neymar has signed a contract extension that will see him stay at Paris Saint-Germain until the end of the 2024-2025 season, the reigning French champions announced on Saturday.
The Brazilian has claimed three Ligue 1 titles with PSG since arriving in 2017 from Barcelona for 222 million euros ($270 million) in what remains the most expensive transfer in history.
“I’m really pleased to continue my adventure at Paris Saint-Germain,” the 29-year-old said in a club statement after signing a contract extension until June 20, 2025.
“I’m very happy in Paris, and proud to be part of this squad, to work with these players, a great coach and to be part of the history of this club.”
PSG coach Mauricio Pochettino said in a press conference: “Everyone in the PSG family is happy that a player of Neymar’s talent has extended his contract.”
Neymar has also won two French Cups with PSG, but the major honour that he was bought by the Qatari-owned club to win, the Champions League, continues to prove elusive.
He helped PSG to reach last season’s Champions League final where they were beaten by Bayern Munich but the club’s chances of reaching the final again were crushed by Manchester City on Tuesday — and Neymar was ineffectual in the 2-0 semi-final second-leg defeat in England.
There has frequently been speculation in Spain that Barcelona wanted to re-sign him, but Neymar’s decision to extend his deal in the French capital is not a surprise as he has looked increasingly settled at PSG in recent months.
Lionel Messi said in September 2019 he would have “loved” Neymar to return to the club.
“I would have loved for Neymar to come. I don’t know if Barca did everything possible to bring him back but it’s true that negotiating with PSG is not easy,” he said at the time.
PSG will now turn their attention to persuading forward Kylian Mbappe to stay at the club.
The French World Cup-winning forward is coveted by a host of Europe’s top clubs.
Paris Saint-Germain coach Mauricio Pochettino said his team “deserved better” after losing 4-1 on aggregate to Manchester City in the Champions League semi-finals following a 2-0 defeat in Tuesday’s second leg.
Riyad Mahrez’s double at the Etihad Stadium denied the French champions a second straight final appearance, as PSG struggled to break down the City defence without the injured Kylian Mbappe.
“I think that if you analyse the two games, we dominated a team that is very difficult to dominate, but you need this percentage of luck sometimes to score in the key moments,” Pochettino told French broadcaster RMC Sport.
“I’m proud. I congratulated Manchester City but I feel disappointed because I think we deserved more, but they were more clinical than us, they were able to score the goals they needed.
“We played the match with the plan we wanted.”
PSG defeated Barcelona and holders Bayern Munich to reach this season’s last four but paid for their indiscipline and subdued attacking display, ending both games against City with 10 men and failing to register a shot on target in Manchester.
Pochettino, appointed to replace Thomas Tuchel in January, was keen to draw on the positives though with PSG still competing for the Ligue 1 title and French Cup.
“I think we need to be positive. To get here and beat Barcelona and Bayern, it’s a shame not to get to the final but the team will never give up, we fight,” he said.
“We played 10 against 11 both home and away, for 35-40 minutes, it’s a huge disadvantage. Today wasn’t for us.”
Manchester City reached the Champions League final for the first time in the club’s history as Riyad Mahrez’s double saw off Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on Tuesday to seal a 4-1 aggregate win.
Mahrez’s goal also decided the first leg and the Algerian, who grew up in the Parisian suburbs, haunted his home town team again with two clinical finishes early in each half.
The final in Istanbul on May 29 against Real Madrid or Chelsea is the culmination of City’s rise since an Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 transformed the club’s fortunes.
Meanwhile, four years on from making Neymar and Kylian Mbappe the world’s two most expensive players, PSG’s wait for a first Champions League title goes on.
Mbappe could only watch on from the stands due to a calf injury as, just like in last week’s first leg, his side imploded after an excellent first-half performance.
The visitors were left to rue huge missed chances by Marquinhos and Angel Di Maria in between Mahrez’s strikes before Di Maria lashed out at Fernandinho to leave PSG down to 10 men for the final 20 minutes.
City will set the seal on a fifth Premier League title in the past 10 years in the coming days as they remain on course for a treble, having already lifted the League Cup.
But it has taken until their 10th consecutive season in the Champions League for Sheikh Mansour’s investment to be rewarded by playing in the biggest game in club football.
City boss Pep Guardiola has won the Champions League twice before as a coach during his time at Barcelona.
However, the Catalan has also endured a decade of anguish in Europe’s premier club competition since.
Four times Guardiola has fallen at the semi-final stage with Barca and Bayern Munich since last lifting the trophy in 2011 on top of three quarter-final exits with City in the past three seasons.
In many of those ties, the fine details and controversial decisions went against Guardiola’s men despite dominating the match.
This time it was a role reversal as City had to withstand a barrage from PSG before the break.
The French champions thought they had an early penalty to get back in the tie when Oleksandr Zinchenko was penalised for handball.
However, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers rightly reversed his initial decision on seeing a replay of the ball bouncing off the Ukrainian’s shoulder.
Zinchenko was heavily involved again when the opening goal arrived at the other end.
He raced onto City goalkeeper Ederson’s thunderous long pass into the PSG area. Zinchenko’s cut-back found Kevin De Bruyne and after the Belgian’s shot was blocked, Mahrez pounced to slot home on his weaker right foot.
The tie was still far from over as PSG penned City back and should have been at least level on the night before half-time.
Marquinhos has made a habit of scoring big Champions League goals and the Brazilian was inches away from another when his looping header came back off the crossbar.
Ederson then nearly undid his good work as Di Maria intercepted his hurried throw to Bernardo Silva and flashed a shot inches wide with the Brazilian ‘keeper stranded outside his goal.
Mauricio Pochettino will wonder what could have been had Mbappe been fit with his replacement Icardi ineffective.
Neymar only ever showed flashes of his brilliance with City’s impressive defence led by Ruben Dias able to focus on stopping the Brazilian without Mbappe to worry about.
City have now kept 31 clean sheets this season in a marked contrast to the defensive weakness that has previously cost them in this competition.
Guardiola’s men have always shown enough quality going forward and a clinical counter-attack killed off the tie on 63 minutes.
De Bruyne freed Phil Foden down the left and his inch-perfect cross was blasted high past Keylor Navas by Mahrez.
In a repeat of the first leg, PSG’s discipline went with their hopes of reaching the final.
Di Maria needlessly stamped on Fernandinho to be shown a straight red card before Marco Verratti was lucky to escape seeing a second yellow.
Foden hit the post as City threatened to run riot in the closing stages.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola told his players to believe in their ability to complete the job against Paris Saint-Germain next week and reach the club’s first ever Champions League final.
Guardiola’s men came from behind to beat the French champions 2-1 in the Parc des Princes on Wednesday to take a vital lead back to the Etihad Stadium on May 4.
City reached the last four for the first time in five years under Guardiola by also bouncing back from conceding an early goal in their quarter-final, second leg against Borussia Dortmund to win 2-1 in Germany.
The Premier League champions-elect needed a similar response after Marquinhos’s early header gave PSG a half-time lead.
City were much improved after half-time, but had luck on their side to level when Kevin De Bruyne’s cross found the bottom corner before Riyad Mahrez’s free-kick completed the comeback.
“In Dortmund we conceded a goal and came back and today the same,” said Guardiola. “Only what I want is to be ourselves in the second game.
“We are good playing in a certain way, we cannot do it another way. Hopefully we can find the right words, the right decisions to do it.”
City showed a new found maturity on the European stage to weather an early storm from Mauricio Pochettino’s men and go in only 1-0 down at the break.
But Guardiola put a slow start down to nerves in a first Champions League semi-final for many of his players.
“At 1-0 they were good, we could not press well. We didn’t have the good possession in the right positions but that sometimes is normal.
“This club does not have much experience in this stage of the competition, but I think it will help us to realise that we are ourselves or anything can happen. I think the second half we were, we were incredibly aggressive and played really good.”
All eyes were on De Bruyne when City were awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position with 19 minutes to go, but the Belgian’s decision to step aside for Mahrez to fire in the winner proved an inspired choice.
“I said ‘if you believe in yourself, take it’,” said De Bruyne. “I have full confidence in my team and you know he scored the goal, so who am I to say something about that?”
City’s dominance of possession after half-time and a fine defensive performance from Ruben Dias and John Stones managed to keep PSG’s star duo of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe quiet.
But De Bruyne warned the job is only half done.
“We know there are going to be moments in the game where we suffer,” added the City captain.
“The quality in this stage (of the competition), we know how good they are so you have to set your mind on that. Run hard, work hard for the team and we know we also have quality to play against them.”
Paris Saint-Germain knocked holders Bayern Munich out of the Champions League on Tuesday despite Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scoring against his old club as a 1-0 defeat in the second leg at the Parc des Princes could not prevent the French giants from winning a tremendous quarter-final tie on away goals.
Neymar twice hit the woodwork for PSG in the first half and Choupo-Moting then put Bayern in front five minutes before the break.
But the reigning European champions could not get the second goal they needed after losing 3-2 at home in the first leg last week.
Hansi Flick’s team are out, and PSG have revenge following their 1-0 defeat in last season’s final in Lisbon.
The dream of winning a first European Cup remains alive for the Qatar-owned club and Mauricio Pochettino’s team, who had already eliminated Barcelona in the last 16, can now look forward to a semi-final showdown with Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund.
Bayern will have to console themselves with trying to win a ninth consecutive Bundesliga title, and will wonder what might have been had the prolific Robert Lewandowski, or Serge Gnabry, been available for the two legs of this tie.
The future of Flick will come back into focus, too, given his frosty relationship with the club’s sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic.
Yet Bayern more than played their part in an epic tie that will live long in the memory and that deserved to be played before a full house both in Munich and here.
They were also without influential midfielder Leon Goretzka for this second leg, and they had next to no Champions League experience on their bench either.
Their starting line-up was still impressive, and with Thomas Mueller leading from the front and co-ordinating their suffocating press, Bayern took the game to their hosts throughout.
That suited PSG, who have produced their best performances this season away from home and could look to hit the Germans on the break with the devastating pace of Kylian Mbappe.
The Parisians, to be fair, were without two huge players of their own in captain Marquinhos and playmaker Marco Verratti, but they did have Mbappe and Neymar.
Neymar’s frustrating night
The Brazilian was in the mood but was left frustrated by a combination of Manuel Neuer and the frame of the goal in the first half.
Twice the Bayern goalkeeper produced saves to deny Neymar before the world’s most expensive player hit a superb shot off the angle of bar and far post in the 37th minute after Angel Di Maria’s free-kick was cleared to him.
On 39 minutes another breakaway finished with Mbappe squaring to Neymar, who this time saw his effort strike the base of the right-hand post.
Bayern could have been dead and buried, but within a minute of that they were in front on the night.
Thomas Mueller’s cushioned lay-off in the box set up David Alaba for a first-time shot that Keylor Navas saved. The ball looped up to Choupo-Moting and he headed in.
The Cameroon forward, who scored once in 10 Champions League appearances across two seasons at PSG, now had his second goal against his old club in this tie while standing in for Lewandowski.
Bayern could even have scored again before the break as a thunderous strike by Alaba was turned behind by Navas, keeping PSG ahead overall on away goals.
A goal for the home side would have calmed the nerves as they looked to avoid another dramatic exit from the Champions League like so many before over the last decade.
Neymar stretched but just could not connect with Di Maria’s ball across goal at the start of the second half.
PSG lost left-back Abdou Diallo to injury and Bayern continued to push them back, accepting the risk of conceding as they went looking for a crucial second goal.
Mbappe had an effort disallowed for offside, while another Bayern goal never arrived, and the final whistle was met with loud roars of delight from the home bench.