Real Madrid Beat Athletic Bilbao To Win Spanish Super Cup


Real Madrid players celebrate winning the Spanish Super Cup final football match between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid on January 16, 2022, at the King Fahd International Stadium in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. AFP

 

Real Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup by beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 on Sunday as Luka Modric and a Karim Benzema penalty secured a comfortable victory in Saudi Arabia.

Modric’s curling finish towards the end of the first half and Benzema’s strike early in the second sealed the win for Madrid, who claimed their first trophy in Carlo Ancelotti’s second spell as coach.

Athletic had beaten La Liga champions Atletico Madrid to reach the final but were well beaten at the King Fahd Stadium by a slick, organised Real Madrid side, that have now lost only once in 20 matches.

They had brief hope in the 87th minute when they were awarded a penalty and Eder Militao was sent off, but Raul Garcia missed and Madrid’s win was safe.

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Ancelotti’s side face Elche on Wednesday in the quarter-finals of the Copa del Rey and Paris Saint-Germain next month in the last 16 of the Champions League.

In La Liga, they are five points clear at the top of the table.

“It’s an impulse, an impulse to keep going,” said Ancelotti. “We don’t have much time to think because another competition is coming.”

Modric continued his brilliant form by scoring the opener, a goal that makes him the oldest goalscorer in Spanish Super Cup history at 36.


Real Madrid players celebrate with the winner’s trophy after winning the Spanish Super Cup final football match between Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid on January 16, 2022, at the King Fahd International stadium in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.  FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP

 

The 33-year-old Marcelo, meanwhile, came on for the last few minutes, before lifting his 23rd trophy at Real Madrid, equalling the haul of Paco Gento as the most successful player in the club’s history.

“He’s one of the greats, a legend of this club,” said Madrid president Florentino Perez.

Ancelotti now has five trophies as Real Madrid coach, adding a Spanish Super Cup to the Copa del Rey, Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup he won during his first spell.

The Spanish Super Cup stayed in Spain in 2021 because of the pandemic but has returned to Saudi Arabia as part of an agreement until 2029 that will earn the Spanish football federation around 30 million euros a year.

Objections from players and coaches have been noticeably muted but Athletic Bilbao’s Raul Garcia spoke out last week. He said moving a Spanish tournament 7,000 kilometres away was symptomatic of the authorities “forgetting the basics of football”.

Criticism has been more forthright from human rights groups like Amnesty International, who have accused the federation of failing to support “harassed and persecuted women in Saudi Arabia” and of collaborating in Saudi “image-washing”.

Athletic’s Inaki Williams and Oihan Sancet looked dangerous early on, with Williams wanting a penalty when the ball struck the sliding David Alaba on the hand but referee Cesar Soto was not interested.

Despite Vinicius Junior’s imperious form in recent weeks, Madrid’s greatest threat came down the opposite side, through Rodrygo.

The first warning came when Kroos pinged the ball out to the Brazilian, who dropped it inside for Benzema and the striker’s curling shot flew just wide of Unai Simon’s far post.

The opener took a similar route, even if it started with Thibaut Courtois, who played out to Toni Kroos. Under pressure, Kroos found Casemiro and the ball shuffled along, through Modric and out right.

Rodrygo drove past two Athletic defenders afraid to challenge in the box and by the time Dani Garcia slid to block, it was too late, Rodrygo toeing the ball inside to Modric, who whipped the ball first time into the corner.

Seven minutes into the second half, it was two, as Yeray Alvarez leapt to block Benzema”s shot, stopping the ball with his outstretched right arm. The referee checked the monitor and gave the penalty, which Benzema fired left and in.

Hope for Athletic came late, and briefly, in the 87th minute, when Militao was sent off for blocking another Raul Garcia header towards goal and Athletic were awarded a penalty. But Raul Garcia missed, his drive down the middle met by the left foot of Courtois.

AFP

Barca To Sue News Outlet, Deny Leaking Messi’s Contract Details

messi-
File photo: Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi looks downwards during the Spanish League football match between FC Barcelona and CA Osasuna at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona on July 16, 2020. LLUIS GENE / AFP

 

Barcelona will take legal action against the Spanish newspaper El Mundo after it published details on Sunday of Lionel Messi’s current contract, which it says is worth up to 555 million euros ($674 million) over four years.

Barca responded by also insisting they were not responsible for the leak, although the club did not deny the details of the report.

El Mundo say the deal signed by Messi in 2017 is the “largest in the history of sport” and called it the “colossal contract that ruins Barcelona”.

The 33-year-old could end up collecting a maximum of 555,237,619 euros before it expires on June 30 this year, if all conditions were met.

With six months left of the deal to run, “the player has already earned 511,290,052 euros, almost 92 per cent of the possible total”, the report claims.

The leak comes as Barcelona are wrestling with a dire financial situation, worsened by the pandemic, and with Messi’s future still up in the air, given the striker can leave the club for free this summer.

“In view of the information published today in the newspaper El Mundo, in relation to the professional contract signed between FC Barcelona and the player Lionel Messi, the club regrets its publication given that it is a private document governed by the principle of confidentiality between the parties,” said Barcelona in a statement.

– ‘Absolute support’ –

“FC Barcelona categorically denies any responsibility for the publication of this document, and will take appropriate legal action against the newspaper El Mundo, for any damage that may be caused as a result of this publication.

“FC Barcelona expresses its absolute support for Lionel Messi, especially in the face of any attempt to discredit his image, and to damage his relationship with the club where he has worked to become the best player in the world and in football history.”

According to the report, Messi earned 115 million euros just for signing the contract in 2017 and among his potential bonuses is a 3,548,644-euro reward for winning the Champions League and 2,365,766 euros for winning La Liga, El Mundo claims.

His club contract dwarfs those of the other top earners in global sport.

Patrick Mahomes, the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback, last year signed the biggest contract in North American sport, worth a minimum of 450 million dollars, but it is 10 years long.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s contract with Juventus is worth a reported 30 million euros a year, but bonuses may have taken it up to 70 million euros last season. Ronaldo also earns more from endorsements than Messi.

Messi is set to decide in the coming months whether he wants to stay at Barcelona or leave the club he joined as a 13-year-old and where he has become arguably the greatest player of all time.

Frustrated with Barca’s decline in recent years, the Argentinian also feels unfairly blamed for worsening performances on the pitch.

Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain are the favourites to sign Messi if he chooses to leave.

Spain PM Concerned At Madrid Spike In COVID-19 Infections

Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez addresses media representatives at a press conference following a European Union Summit at European Union Headquarters in Brussels on October 18, 2019. AFP

 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Tuesday his government is concerned about a spike in coronavirus infections in the capital Madrid.

Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries when the coronavirus struck Europe this year before a strict lockdown helped reduce the outbreak’s spread.

But infections have surged since the lockdown measures were fully removed at the end of June, especially in Madrid, with the rise in infections often linked to the return of nightlife and social gatherings.

“We are worried about the state of public health and the evolution of the virus in Madrid,” Sanchez said in an interview with news radio Ser.

The socialist premier added that “some” regional governments which he did not identify needed to boost their ability to track Covid-19 cases and improve their “strategic capacities” in the fight against the virus.

Spain’s central government last week made 2,000 soldiers available to help regional governments, which are responsible for health care, to track people who have been exposed to those infected with virus.

So far 11 of the country’s 17 regional governments had requested soldiers, Sanchez said.

Madrid, which is governed by the conservative Popular Party, requested 150 soldiers.

Spain registered over 23,000 new Covid-19 cases since Friday, health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference on Monday, bringing the total to 462,858.

Of the 1,656 hospitalisations from the disease during the last seven days, 420, or 25 percent, were in Madrid, according to health ministry figures.

The region accounted for nearly half of the 141 deaths in the last seven days.

Spain has recorded a total of 29,094 virus deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the world’s highest tolls.

AFP

Spanish Children Over Six To Wear Masks At School

Weetbe Mask Osaka face masks are pictured in the Spanish Basque city of Igorre on August 26, 2020. – Spanish entrepeneurs Marcos Fernandez Alonso, Itxaso Domingo and Inaki Mendialdua have created the Weetbe Mask Osaka face mask that is customizable and transparent to improve interpersonal communications. ANDER GILLENEA / AFP.

 

Children above the age of six in Spain will be required to wear face masks at school at all times, the government said Thursday, as it seeks to restart lessons despite a surge in coronavirus infections.

“The use of masks will be mandatory in general from the age of six, even if social distance is maintained,” Education Minister Isabel Celaa told a news conference ahead of schools’ reopening next month.

Spain’s 17 regional governments, which are responsible for health care and education, have in recent days outlined a patchwork of different measures, leading critics to charge there was a lack of coordination.

The northern region of Cantabria’s requirement for children as young as three to wear masks sparked particular controversy.

As well as mask-wearing, pupils will also have to maintain a social distance of 1.5 metres (five feet) from each other, Celaa said, except for young children who will be allowed to mix only with their classmates but not with outsiders.

Other measures include requiring children to wash their hands at least five times a day, regularly ventilating classrooms and taking pupils’ temperature.

The goal is for children return to schools instead of having online lessons as they did at the end of the last school term due to the pandemic.

“We aim for all students to be present,” Celaa said.

Spain’s schools shut in mid-March when the country imposed a strict three-month lockdown to curb the spread of the virus and have not re-opened since.

New cases are growing at one of the fastest rates in Europe and debate has raged in Spain over how to protect children from infection in schools.

Some parents say they will refuse to send their children back to class because they fear it won’t be safe.

The number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Spain, a nation of around 47 million people, surpassed 400,000 this week. Nearly 29,000 people have died, one of the world’s highest tolls.

Against this backdrop, local authorities have toughened measures to curb the spread of the virus. Madrid city hall announced Thursday that public swimming pools would close on September 1 and parks will be closed at night.

The Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, which include holiday hotspots Ibiza and Mallorca, announced Wednesday that beaches would be shut at night.

With nightclubs and bars closed across Spain, many young people have taken to gathering and drinking in parks and on beaches at night.

AFP

Casillas Joins Spanish FA Presidential Race

 

Spain’s World Cup-winning captain Iker Casillas will run for the presidency of the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF), he confirmed on Monday.

The date of the election has not yet been decided but Casillas said he has informed his current club, Porto of his decision, with the 38-year-old now expected to retire from playing the game.

“Yes, I will run for the presidency of the RFEF when the elections are called,” Casillas wrote in a statement.

“Together we will put our federation at the top of the best football in the world, the football of Spain.

“I have informed the president of my club, FC Porto, to whom I can only express the deepest gratitude.”

Casillas is considered one of the greatest goalkeepers of his generation and led Spain to their first World Cup triumph in South Africa in 2010.

He played 167 times for Spain, also winning two Euros in 2008 and 2012, and made more than 700 appearances for Real Madrid, with whom he won five La Liga titles and the Champions League three times, before joining Porto in 2015.

Casillas was named in the FIFA FIFPro World XI five years in a row between 2008 and 2012.

But last April, he suffered a heart attack during training and has not played another competitive match since.

Casillas had been linked with the RFEF presidency for several months and is now expected to go up against current incumbent Luis Rubiales for the post.

“We are working with the utmost respect and determination in our candidacy,” added Casillas. “More than 23,000 voters are waiting for us in fair and transparent elections. The 139 assembly members will decide.”

Rubiales has been in perpetual conflict with Javier Tebas, the president of La Liga, and the pair have clashed over numerous issues, including fixtures on Monday and Friday nights, matches abroad and the postponement of the Clasico in October.

According to the rules, the elections should be held in the second half of this year after the Tokyo Olympics but Rubiales has requested they be brought forward, before Euro 2020, which will run from 12 June to 12 July.

AFP

155 Migrants Force Entry Into Spain’s Ceuta Enclave

Migrants are arrested after they force their way into the Spanish territory of Ceuta on August 30, 2019. Over 150 migrants made their way into Ceuta after storming a barbed-wire border fence with Morocco Antonio SEMPERE / AFP

 

A group of 155 migrants forced their way into Spain’s North African enclave of Ceuta from Morocco on Friday, Spanish authorities said.

“They are all from sub-Saharan Africa, the majority from Guinea,” a spokesman for the central government’s office in Ceuta told AFP.

They broke through the barbed wire fence bordering Morocco early Friday morning, taking advantage of misty conditions, slightly hurting 12 police officers who tried to stop them, he said.

Several migrants were treated for cuts.

Spanish media said some of them jumped over while the majority broke through a door in the fence.

This is the first time in a year that migrants have managed to storm the barbed wire fence that separates Ceuta from Morocco as a group, the spokesman said.

Spain’s two North African enclaves, Melilla and Ceuta, have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

Since the start of the year, 3,427 migrants have entered these two cities, 18.1 per cent less than in 2018, according to the latest interior ministry figures.

Of these, 671 arrived in Ceuta.

Once on Spanish territory, they are usually taken to a migrant reception centre where they can ask for asylum.

Venezuela Declares Spanish Ambassador ‘Persona Non Grata’

(File copy) Venezuela Nicolas President, Maduro                                            Photo Credit: AFP

Venezuela on Thursday declared Spain’s ambassador to Caracas “persona non grata,” accusing Madrid of committing “continuous aggressions” against the Socialist government of President Nicolas Maduro.

The declaration came a day after Venezuela recalled its own ambassador to Spain following the European Union’s adoption of sanctions against seven senior Venezuelan officials, including a freeze on their assets and a ban on traveling to the EU.

Venezuela “has decided to declare persona non grata the ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Venezuela… owing to its continuous aggressions and repeated acts of interference in the internal affairs of our country,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Caracas accuses Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of being one of the masterminds behind the sanctions, saying he was acting on instructions from the United States. Among the targeted officials was Diosdado Cabello, one of the most powerful figures in the Venezuela leadership.

Diplomats like Spanish ambassador Jesus Silva who are censured by being declared persona non grata are normally required to leave the country where they have been serving.

Spain and Venezuela have suffered from tense diplomatic ties since the late Socialist leader Hugo Chavez came to power in 1999. He was succeeded on his death in 2013 by Maduro.

AFP

Dismissed Catalan VP Demands Release From Jail

FILE PHOTO: A demonstrator holds a placard bearing a crossed-out portrait of Catalan regional leader Carles Puigdemont, who was officially ousted by Madrid, reading “Dictators out” as others wave Spanish and Catalan Senyera flags during a pro-unity demonstration in Barcelona on October 29, 2017. LLUIS GENE / AFP

The dismissed vice president of Catalonia on Tuesday asked that he be released from jail, having accepted he no longer holds authority in the Spanish region whose leaders want independence.

Oriol Junqueras has been in custody since November 2 while a judge investigates him and other former regional ministers, including the deposed Catalan president Carles Puigdemont, on charges of sedition, rebellion and misuse of public funds.

In a note presented by lawyers to the Supreme Court, Junqueras and three other axed ministers in the formerly semi-autonomous region admitted that they have been dismissed.

They “accept the application of Article 155”, the constitutional provision which allowed the conservative government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to suspend Catalonia’s regional authority on October 27.

That step followed Puigdemont’s declaration of independence, after a referendum on secession that took place on October 1, despite a court ban. Puigdemont is in self-imposed exile in Belgium.

According to the court note, Junqueras and his fellow detainees accept Madrid’s authority over Catalonia despite having “the deepest political and legal disagreement”.

“They do not give up their political beliefs in strictly peaceful and democratic ways and will work to reach an agreement that puts the decision on the future of Catalonia in the hands of citizens,” it added.

Rajoy dissolved the Catalan parliament and has announced elections to be held there on December 21 in a bid to “restore normality” to the regio

Euro 2016: Iniesta Admits Facing Italy Will Be Tough

Andres Iniesta, Spain, Italy, Euro 2016Barcelona Captain, Andres Iniesta, says Spain will be contending with a tough Italy team in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 ongoing in France.

The Spanish midfielder acknowledged that the Italians are high-calibre opponent, but expressed hope that the clash would make his side a better team.

“They’re a powerful rival, a difficult rival, and a good game. It’s a game that will be useful to us if we are to keep developing and taking steps in these Euros,” he told Goal.

He added that the Azzurri are excellent players and have a great defensive block that has been well known for a long time.

“Contrary to what I hear people saying, they also improved a great deal in terms of possession and ball-handling.

“They really stepped up, which makes the game on Monday even more complex and our aspirations even more difficult,” Iniesta admitted.

Spain finished second in the Group D after a shock 2 – 1 loss to Croatia in their last game while Italy finished first despite 1 – 0 loss to the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday.

Aruna Quadri To End 2015 As World Number 50

quadriNigeria’s Aruna Quadri will end 2015 as the world number 50 tennis player.

This is according to the latest ranking released by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

In 2015, Quadri featured in more than five ITTF World Circuits, with his best being the Lagos Open, where he played in the final against Assar.

In Europe, he took part in the German, Spanish, Polish, Croatian and Swedish Opens.

Quadri was also in the Kuwait and Qatar Opens where he managed to make it to the last 32 in some of the tournaments.

His best outing in Europe was at the Croatian Open where he made it to the last 16.

Russian FA shortlists Capello,Guardiola and Redknapp

Former Barcelona boss, Pep Guardiola and England’s former coach, Fabio Capello are amongst the high profiled candidates running eagerly for the position of Russia coach.

The Russian Football Union (RFU) revealed on Tuesday that the union is planning to discuss further with the contenders so as to determine who takes up the job as head coach of the National team.

Other top contenders for the position are Harry Redknapp who is the former boss of Tottenham Hotspur, former Liverpool boss, Rafael Benitez, Marcelo Bielsa and Marcelo Lippi.

Local media and football pundits tipped Capello and Guardiola who are the early front-runners as possible two contenders after the filtering must have been completed but also ruled the chances any Russian taking up the position as Valery Gazzayev, Anatoly Byshovets and Yuri Semin, who coached the national team in the past but were sacked or quit following a string of poor results were amongst the list as Russians.

Much against the will of the Russian Football Union the list of the candidates were released claiming it was due to intense media speculation about the job, which became vacant following Dutchman Dick Advocaat’s departure after Russia’s failure to get past the group phase at Euro 2012.

One name conspicuous by its absence was Manchester City’s Italian manager Roberto Mancini who agreed a new five-year contract with the English Premier League champions on Monday.

On Monday, Russian media, quoting RFU and Sports Ministry sources, said Mancini had agreed a four-year deal to become Russia’s new coach after officials found a “signed contract” in the safe of former RFU chief Sergei Fursenko.

Barcelona terminate Henrique’s contract

Spanish football giant, Barcelona agreed to terminate the contract of Brazilian centre-back Henrique after failing to make any competitive appearance for the Spanish club.

The Club World Cup champions paid a reported €8 million for the once-capped Brazil international, a product of Coritiba’s youth system.

Though, Henrique still had 12 months before his contract with Barcelona ends, spent one whole season on loan at the Arena Palestra Italia and has now penned a four-year deal with the Sao Paulo-based side.

Henrique joined Barca from Palmeiras in 2008 but never made a single appearance for the Catalans, having first been farmed out to Bayer Leverkusen and then spending two seasons on loan at Racing Santander.