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Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid exit looks close – is he the most successful ‘failure’ ever?

Gareth Bale scored three Champions League final goals for Real MadridGareth Bale has helped Real Madrid to unprecedented European dominance, has scored decisive goals in the biggest matches and is arguably Britain’s best footballing export.Yet it appears his time at the Bernabeu is set to come to an end, with many fans happy for him…

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Gareth Bale’s Real Madrid exit looks close – is he the most successful ‘failure’ ever?

Gareth Bale scored three Champions League final goals for Real MadridGareth Bale has helped Real Madrid to unprecedented European dominance, has scored decisive goals in the biggest matches and is arguably Britain’s best footballing export.Yet it appears his time at the Bernabeu is set to come to an end, with many fans happy for him to leave and manager Zinedine Zidane saying it would “be best for everyone” if the 30-year-old were to find a new club.From the outside it seems bizarre – how can such a decorated player be so unwanted at a club where he has achieved so much?Leaving aside the high demands of Real supporters – who also booed Cristiano Ronaldo at times, don’t forget – BBC Sport takes a look at the Welshman’s six years in Madrid.So many trophies and plenty of goals

Gareth Bale with the Champions League for the fourth (and final?) timeWhen Real signed Bale from Tottenham in 2013, they had not won the Champions League since 2002.With the Welshman, they won it four times in the following six seasons, only failing to lift European football’s most coveted prize twice, including in 2018-19.Remarkably, that means Bale has been involved in 30% of all of the club’s European Cup successes.That record makes him the competition’s joint 12th most successful player – only former Real team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo (five) has won more Champions League trophies since the 1992 rebrand.Bale has also won one La Liga title and one Copa del Rey, as well as three Club World Cups, three Uefa Super Cups and a Spanish Super Cup.To compare him to other recent Real icons, he has won more Champions Leagues than Raul (three), current manager Zidane (one), Luis Figo (one) and Brazilian Ronaldo (zero).And his goal tally of 102 in 231 games – with 65 assists – is impressive, if not mind-boggling. Bale managed only two fewer goals than Brazil hero Ronaldo and scored two more than Fernando Morientes did for Real between 1997 and 2005. His minutes-per-goal record (163) beats Raul, whose 325 goals in 741 games took 184 minutes each.Perhaps surprising – given how Zidane was considered such a huge part of Real’s recent history – is the fact Bale has played four games more for the club than the Frenchman and scored more than twice as many goals. Zidane had 49 goals in 227 games. Their assist levels were similar, with Zidane setting up 66, one more than Bale.Unfortunately for Bale, his records are made to look human by Cristiano Ronaldo’s 450 goals and 131 assists in 438 games, a goal every 84 minutes. A man for the big momentsOnly three players have ever scored more European Cup final goals than Bale’s three – Real legends Alfredo di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas (seven each) and Cristiano Ronaldo (five).He scored in two separate Champions League finals – including arguably the greatest European Cup final strike ever scored – and netted in a shootout in another.He also scored a stunning winner in one of only two El Clasico Copa del Rey finals since 1990. Here are his five best moments in a Real jersey – with three coming in his first season after a then world-record £85m move.2014 La Liga – Real Madrid 5-0 Rayo Vallecano

Out of Bale’s 78 La Liga goals, this was arguably his best. Seven touches were all he needed to run 70 yards with the ball and score. He was just outside his own box when he latched on to a headed clearance. His first touch took him in between two Rayo Vallecano players. Two more later and he was in the opposition half, before cutting inside a defender and slotting home from the edge of the box.He would score nine goals in seven games against Rayo, including four in a 10-2 win the following year.2014 Copa del Rey final – Real Madrid 2-1 Barcelona

Bale marked his first Real final with one of the greatest El Clasico goals.With five minutes remaining, Bale ran from his own half, nudging the ball past Marc Bartra and then arcing his run off the pitch to speed past the defender before cutting inside and slotting the ball between the legs of keeper Jose Manuel Pinto.”I have never seen anything like it. It looked like the ball was going out, but he kept pushing and ran off the field to get it. It was amazing,” said then team-mate Xabi Alonso.2014 Champions League final – Real Madrid 4-1 Atletico Madrid (aet)

Having endured an 11-year Champions League drought – their previous victory coming when Zidane scored a famous volley against Bayer Leverkusen – Bale helped Real win the elusive “La Decima”. The club’s 10th European Cup triumph was the perfect ending to his first season in Spain.Bale headed in what would prove their 110th-minute winner against Atletico before two late Real goals gave the game a deceptively comfortable-looking scoreline.2018 Champions League final – Real Madrid 3-1 Liverpool

Bale’s greatest moment came in last year’s Champions League final against Liverpool, with the 61st-minute replacement for Isco becoming the first substitute to score twice in a European Cup final.Two minutes after coming on, he sent an unbelievable bicycle kick past Loris Karius to give Real a 2-1 lead, in a goal up there with the greatest scored in any European game – or any final.His second goal – which came from 30 yards and was fumbled in by Karius – helped seal Real’s 13th European Cup.2018 Fifa Club World Cup – Kashima Antlers 1-3 Real Madrid

In a final season with few high points, Bale scored a hat-trick in the Club World Cup semi-final – a tournament Real take seriously. Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Luis Suarez have scored trebles in that cup.The Welshman opened the scoring via the post, tapped a second into an empty net and then smashed in a third from a tight angle.Bale won all three Fifa Club World Cups he played with Real – he was injured for the 2016 event – scoring six goals in as many games.Is Bale Britain’s greatest football export?

Steve McManaman won seven trophies with Real – compared to Bale’s 13In terms of trophies? Yes.In terms of goals? YesNo British player has ever won more major titles or scored more top-flight goals abroad than Bale. Another Wales legend, John Charles, scored 93 goals in 155 games for Juventus, winning three Serie A titles and two Italian Cups.Former England winger Steve McManaman managed just over half of Bale’s trophy haul with two Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles, one Uefa Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one Spanish Super Cup – all with Real. He managed only 14 goals though.David Beckham scored a combined 42 goals for Real, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris St-Germain, winning La Liga, two MLS Cups and Ligue 1. Kevin Keegan managed 43 goals for Hamburg and won the Bundesliga, although he achieved one thing Bale never did; winning the Ballon d’Or – twice.Scot Paul Lambert became the first British player to win the European Cup with a non-British side in 1997 when Borussia Dortmund beat Juventus – while Chris Waddle lost the 1991 final with Marseille.Waddle won three Ligue 1 titles in a row and was named Marseille’s second greatest player of the century by the fans, behind striker Jean-Pierre Papin.Read more about British football’s best exportsBut despite surpassing all those achievements, it seems Bale’s departure from Real will elicit little emotion from the club’s fans or manager.”Zidane is a disgrace – he shows no respect for a player that has done so much for Real Madrid,” Bale’s agent, Jonathan Barnett, told AFP.

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When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday. The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th…

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When Diego Maradona played in Saudi Arabia – Arab world mourns passing of a legend

DOHA: Andres Iniesta scored his first goal in the Asian Champions League as Vissel Kobe powered their way to the last-16 with a dominant 3-1 win over Fabio Cannavaro’s Guangzhou Evergrande in their Group G clash on Wednesday.

The Spain and Barcelona legend fired a right-footed shot from the center of the box in the 84th minute to help the Japanese side consolidate their position at the top of their group with two wins from as many matches.

They are now five points ahead of Guangzhou and Suwon Samsung Bluewings and assured of a spot in the knockout phase after the group was reduced to three teams following Malaysian side Johor Darul Ta’zim’s withdrawal from the tournament.

In another match on Wednesday, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors pipped Sydney FC 1-0 in Group H with Na Sung-eun scoring in the 44th minute.

It was the Australian side’s third defeat in four matches while Jeonbuk revived their hopes with their first victory.

Iniesta, who was declared MVP of the match, had been an influential presence for Vissel Kobe throughout the encounter with his quick thinking and crisp passing, and that reflected in their first goal in the 44th minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.

The Spanish veteran dashed his way up on the left flank to control a long diagonal pass and after advancing further turned around near the goalline to tap the ball onto the path of the advancing Kyogo Furuhashi who struck with a clean, low shot from close range.

Furuhashi’s personal joy at scoring lasted only 10 minutes as the forward first conceded a corner and then watched in horror as his attempted clearance from the resultant kick found his own net to give Guangzhou the equalizer.

Cannavaro made three substitutions in a desperate bid for victory after having drawn their opening game against Suwon Samsung Bluewings. But although the two-time champions enjoyed a couple of brief purple patches during which they had the Kobe defence under pressure, the goal they were looking for never materialized.

Vissel Kobe regained the lead in the 74th minute when Douglas, who had just come in five minutes prior, took advantage of a great back-heel from Daigo Nishi and blasted the ball home.

Brazil-born Elekson, now known as Ai Kesen, had a goal disallowed for off-side on eight minutes and when Iniesta struck two minutes later, it extended Cannavaro’s misery in Doha.

“The result is bad. We tried but I know that something in my team is not clear. I don’t know if they are afraid to play or they are not confident anymore,” the Italian complained after the match.

“I need to try and do my best to give them the confidence to play. This is my job. I know they are very good players, and we can do much, much, much better.”

Vissel Kobe had landed in Doha after a string of disappointing results back home, conceding a whopping 58 goals in 33 league matches and losing five games in a row.

But their coach Atsuhiro Miura was basking in joy on Wednesday, saying he was ready with a game plan against a side packed with several Brazilians.

“Guangzhou is a very strong side, they have several good Brazilian players but we analysed how they play and how to prevent them from playing to their strengths,” said Miura.

“We did everything well and everything went how we wanted it to. That’s why we got this result.”

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Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league

RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament. The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize. The…

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Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league

RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament.

The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize.

The Kingdom opened its stadiums to women football supporters in January, 2018, but this is the first time they will have been allowed to compete in a tournament.

The competition has been lauded as an important step for the Saudi sports world, with many in the game throwing their support behind the event.

Calling the competition a “positive step,” Abdullah Alyami, Saudi football coach and sports reporter, said he expects many more women to participate in future tournaments.

“This is a very happy day for all athletes, be they male or female. And based on what we’ve seen, and how beloved the sport of football is all over the Kingdom, I believe we will see many more of our sisters getting involved in professional sports,” he said.
عبدالله اليامي: انطلاق #الدوري_النسائي في #السعودية خطوة إيجابية.. وأتوقع إقبالا كبيرا على المشاركة في فرق كرة القدم النسائية#تواصل #قناة_الرسالة@m3sss3 pic.twitter.com/UxRa8pZSWo
— قناة الرسالة (@alresalahnet) November 17, 2020
Saudi sports reporter Riyan Al-Jidani tweeted his support.

“To all my dear sisters participating the Women’s Football League, your success in the tournament is a step in the right direction towards our dream of universality and representing our homeland to the outside world. Raising the flag on the field is a glory and pride,” he said.

The tournament was due to start in March – but the coronavirus pandemic stopped play.

But for some that just presented the opportunity to up their game.

“We started preparations early, and the delay due to the pandemic actually worked in our favor. We were able to take more than two months to prepare for the tournament,” Maram Al-Butairi, general manager and head coach at Dammam-based Eastern Flames FC.

Amal Gimie, 26, an Eritrean midfielder for Jeddah’s Kings United, previously told Arab News that she had been playing the beautiful game since she was eight.

“There was a match every weekend. The boys made us play as goalkeepers in the beginning, and in 2002, when I first saw the Women’s World Cup, it sparked my passion to learn more about this sport,” said Gimie, who is also a management information systems graduate. She joined her first female football team, Challenge, in Riyadh in 2014.

She said: “It was the first time I joined something organized. I was happy to be playing but at the same time I felt as though it was an unreachable goal (to become a professional athlete or join an official league), I felt like I was growing older without achieving anything.”

The matches won’t be broadcast, but Saudi’s army of football fans remain excited by the tournament.

Wejdan Al-Shammary, who grew up playing sports in school, said she would have tried for a team “in a heartbeat” if she had been just a few years younger.

“I played both basketball and football on my high school teams. I was a complete sports nut, but it makes me happy to know that even if it’s too late for me to achieve those dreams, there’s a chance now for young Saudi girls that I never had,” she said.

Najla Ahmed, a 16-year-old from Riyadh who plays on her school’s football team, said she would try for a local team in 2021.

“I’ll be 17, and therefore eligible, and I would love to see anyone try and stop me,” she said.

Both women said they hoped this was just the start and that more sports would be opened up to women.

“Football is just the beginning. I would love to see more focus on other sports, as well. Basketball, tennis, maybe even competitive swimming,” said Al-Shammary. “I’m sure we have so many potential Olympians among us who just need their talents nurtured.”

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…

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NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases

Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.
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