Lionel Messi Reportedly Agrees to New Five-Year-Deal with FC Barcelona

Not so fast! Lionel Messi may not be going anywhere…

The 34-year-old Argentine superstar footballer and FC Barcelona have reportedly reached an agreement for the forward to sign a new five-year deal with the Catalan club, according to ESPN.

Lionel MessiSources added that Messi has accepted a significant wage reduction to prolong his stay.

Messi was a free agent after his contract at Barca expired, and he had courted interest from Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City since first revealing a desire to end his 20-year relationship with Barca last summer.

Messi’s previous contract, which was worth over €500 million ($594m) over four years, expired at the stroke of midnight on June 30.

However, with the return of Joan Laporta as president in March, Messi grew more open to staying at Camp Nou. An official announcement is expected in the coming days.

Laporta had hoped to finalize an agreement before Messi’s previous terms expired. Barca’s financial problems made that impossible, though, with their gross debt over €1 billion. Cutbacks have been essential, in terms of transferring players out, reducing the wage bill and getting Messi to accept a lower salary.

La Liga president Javier Tebas has warned Barca they will not be allowed to register Messi’s new deal if they are unable to reduce spending to comply with the league’s Financial Fair Play rules. Barca’s spending limit has been reduced from over €600m to €347m since the coronavirus pandemic, with further reductions expected to be imposed for the upcoming season.

Therefore, to register Messi’s new deal, in addition to new signings Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay, Eric Garcia and Emerson Royal, Barca need to continue reducing the wage bill and moving players on. With that in mind, sources at the club refuse to rule out the departure of Antoine Griezmann, a €120m signing in 2019.

Messi is on holiday with his family after his Copa America glory with Argentina last weekend, which was his first senior trophy with his national team.

He will link up with Ronald Koeman‘s squad later in the summer, with Barca’s league campaign kicking off on August 15 against Real Sociedad at Camp Nou.

Messi had first expressed a desire to leave Barca last August after the 8-2 defeat to Bayern Munich in the Champions League. His relationship with then-president Josep Maria Bartomeu had reached a breaking point. In a September 2020 interview with Goal, after Barca had blocked his departure, Messi called Bartomeu a “liar” and said the board had been “making things up as they go along” and “plugging holes” for years.

Bartomeu, facing a vote of no confidence, resigned last October and was eventually replaced by Laporta in March. Laporta has a good relationship with Messi and his family. He was Barca’s president when Messi made his first-team debut and when he signed his first professional contract with the club.

Sources told ESPN in April that Laporta was working on a contract renewal for Messi that included the option of playing in Major League Soccer before returning to Barcelona.

In public and in private, Laporta had always maintained that he was “convinced” he could persuade Messi to stay. The club have already made a series of signings this summer, bringing in Sergio Aguero, Memphis Depay and Eric Garcia, as well as recalling Emerson Royal.

Messi first joined Barca’s academy in 2000 and has gone on to play 778 games for the club, breaking Xavi Hernandez‘s appearance record last season. He has scored 672 goals, another club record, and has helped Barca win, among other trophies, 10 La Liga titles and the Champions League on four occasions.

Teofimo Lopez Agrees to Restructured Contract with Top Rank Promotions

Teofimo Lopez has a new contract…

The 23-year-old Honduran American professional boxer and current unified lightweight world champion and Top Rank Promotions are back on good terms after agreeing to a restructured contract, according to ESPN.

Teofimo Lopez

In the new agreement, Lopez will have his minimum purses raised from the previous amount of $1.25 million and will have the opportunity for pay-per-view bouts on ESPN+, a source confirmed.

The deal comes on the heels of an acrimonious negotiation for Lopez’s upcoming title defense against George Kambosos on June 19. Top Rank and Lopez failed to come to an agreement on his salary for that fight, and the bout went to a purse bid. Triller, an upstart streaming service, easily won the rights with a $6 million bid, with Lopez getting around $3.9 million.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is making his first title defense since beating Vasiliy Lomachenko last year to win three of the four major belts in the 135-pound division. Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs) is the IBF‘s mandatory challenger for its version of the title.

Lopez is also looking for a major opponent on October 2 if he successfully defends his titles, sources confirmed to ESPN. Devin Haney (26-0, 15 KOs), the WBC lightweight champion, has repeatedly expressed his desire to face Lopez. In a Twitter post issued Saturday, Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler said Lopez also wants that fight but that Haney has “contractual issues to resolve.”

Aaron Pico to Fight Aiden Lee at Bellator 260 in June

Aaron Pico has singled out his next opponent…

The 24-year-old Latino mixed martial artist, the top MMA prospect will fight Aiden Lee at Bellator 260 on June 11 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut, according to ESPN.

Aaron Pico 

That card will be broadcast on Showtime and headlined by a welterweight title fight between champion Douglas Lima and challenger Yaroslav Amosov.

Pico (7-3) has won three straight — all by finish — after two knockout losses. The California native is 3-1 since making the move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to train at Jackson Wink MMA alongside the likes of former UFC champions Jon Jones and Holly Holm.

Pico was touted as the greatest prospect in MMA history ahead of his 2017 debut in Bellator. He nearly made the Olympics in wrestling and owns a national Golden Gloves boxing title. Pico has had some ups and downs thus far, but he seems to be putting it all together of late.

Lee (9-4) has won two in a row. The 26-year-old England native is coming off a third-round knockout win over Jeremy Petley last September. Lee trains under UFC middleweight Tom Breese.

Albert Pujols Reportedly Heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers

Albert Pujols will be heading back to the field sooner than expected…

The 41-year-old Dominican professional baseball first baseman and designated hitter, a future MLB Hall of Famer, and the Los Angeles Dodgers have reportedly agreed on a major league contract, according to ESPN.

Albert Pujols

The deal, first reported by the Los Angeles Times, isn’t expected to become official until Monday, a source said.

When it does, the Dodgers will pay Pujols only the prorated portion of the major league minimum salary for the rest of the season, roughly $420,000, a sum that will be subtracted from the $30 million salary that is being paid to him by the Los Angeles Angels.

Pujols, in the last year of his 10-year, $240 million contract, was designated for assignment by the Angels on May 6 and was officially released after clearing waivers on Thursday. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts declined to comment on Pujols prior to Saturday’s game because the deal hasn’t been officially announced.

With the defending World Series champion Dodgers, Pujols is expected to be mostly used as a late-game pinch hitter. But he could also get some playing time at first base with everyday first baseman Max Muncy capable of playing second and third base.

Only 41 of Pujols’ 12,486 career regular-season plate appearances have come as a pinch hitter, but the Dodgers expect him to help a young, inexperienced bench.

His right-handed bat might also help a team that entered Saturday with a .663 OPS against left-handed pitchers, 136 points fewer than its OPS against righties. Pujols is batting only .198/.250/.372 in 92 plate appearances this season and has been a below-average hitter by park-adjusted OPS since 2017. But he owns an .878 OPS against lefties in 2021, and his .513 expected slugging percentage suggests he has also been running into some bad luck.

In 18 plate appearances under what Baseball-Reference identifies as late-and-close situations, Pujols owns a .313/.389/.500 slash line.

Pujols, who hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing beyond 2021, ranks fifth in career homers (667), second in RBIs since they became an official stat in 1920 (2,112) and 14th in hits (3,253). He has won three National League MVP awards, two Gold Gloves and six Silver Sluggers and has been invited to 10 All-Star Games.

His first decade with the St. Louis Cardinals — consisting of a .331/.426/.624 slash line, 408 home runs and 1,230 RBIs — stands as arguably the greatest 10-year run in baseball history. In Year 11, he finished fifth in NL MVP voting and won his second World Series ring.

He becomes the fourth former MVP on the current Dodgers roster, joining Cody BellingerMookie Betts and Clayton Kershaw. According to Elias Sports Bureau research, the Dodgers are the fourth team in MLB history to feature four former MVP winners, joining the 1978 Reds, 1982 Angels and most recently the 1996 Red Sox.

David Luiz Reportedly Leaving Arsenal at End of the Season

David Luiz is looking to switch sides

The 34-year-olf Brazilian professional footballer will leave Arsenal when his contract expires at the end of the season, according to ESPN.

David Luiz

Luiz attended a meeting with senior figures at the club on Friday, which concluded without an extension to his existing agreement.

Sources say the Gunners have made clear their respect for Luiz’s contribution but are seeking to strengthen the centerback area with younger alternatives.

It’s unclear whether Luiz was offered any terms to stay but regardless the Brazil international is now focused on finding a new club, sources said.

He has claimed on several occasions that he wants to finish his career back at Benfica, adding in April last year: “In football everything changes — what is true today, tomorrow is a lie — but my feeling is not.

“I love Benfica. My dream is to step on the pitch of Estadio da Light in their colours. Benfica is bigger than any player.”

Luiz joined the Gunners from London rivals Chelsea in 2019 for £8 million. He has made 73 appearances for the club to date — including helping them win last season’s FA Cup Final against his former club — and has been viewed by manager Mikel Arteta as an influential leadership figure in the dressing room.

He’s suffering with a hamstring problem but will hope for one final appearance in Arsenal’s remaining two Premier League matches, against Crystal Palace and Brighton next week.

Teofimo Lopez to Defend Lightweight Champion Title vs. George Kambosos Jr.

Teofimo Lopez is going on the defensive

The 23-year-old Honduran American boxer will make his first title defense as the undisputed lightweight champion against George Kambosos Jr. on June 19 at Miami’s loanDepot Park, Triller Fight Club has announced.

Teofimo Lopez

The card will be co-headlined by a women’s super middleweight bout between Franchon Crews-Dezurn and Elin Cederroos, with all four world championship belts on the line.

Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), 23, who became the undisputed champion last year by taking four belts from Vasiliy Lomachenko, is No. 5 in the ESPN pound-for-pound rankings.

He’s No. 1 in the ESPN lightweight rankings, while Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), the mandatory IBF challenger from Australia, is ranked 10th.

Triller is a relative newcomer to the boxing promotion business. The tech company made headlines in November by promoting the exhibition between former champions Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr., and in February it won the right to promote the mandatory defense of Lopez, one of boxing’s rising stars.

Marina Rodriguez to Fight Michelle Waterson in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night

Marina Rodriguez is heading to the Octagon

The 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will face off against Michelle Waterson in the UFC Fight Night headliner on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Marina Rodriguez

The originally scheduled main event between former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and top contender Cory Sandhagen was postponed last week due to a Dillashaw injury.

Rodriguez and Waterson are both top strawweights, but the bout will be contested a division up at flyweight due to the short-notice nature of the situation. The bout will still be five rounds, like typical UFC main events.

ESPN has Rodriguez ranked No. 6 in the world at strawweight; Waterson comes in at No. 9.

Rodriguez (13-1-2) has just one loss in six UFC appearances. She is coming off a second-round TKO win over prospect Amanda Ribas in January.

Rodriguez has lost just once in her career, to former UFC women’s strawweight champion Carla Esparza in a split decision last July.

Waterson (18-8) is one of the most well-known women’s fighters in mixed martial arts. Nicknamed “The Karate Hottie,” the New Mexico resident is coming off a split decision win over Angela Hill last September. Waterson has won four of her past six bouts with the only losses coming against Esparza and Joanna Jedrzejczyk, another former UFC champion.

Carmelo Anthony Moves Into Top 10 on NBA All-Time Scoring List

Carmelo Anthony is movin’ on up…

The 36-year-old Puerto Rican professional basketball player, who plays for the Portland Trail Blazers, has moved into the top 10 all time in NBA scoring, passing Elvin Hayes.

Carmelo Anthony

With 11:09 left in the second quarter against the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Anthony isolated on the right wing and pulled up from 3, plus the foul. After his trademark move of hitting the side of his head with three fingers, Anthony raised both arms in the air as a quick acknowledgement of the accomplishment.

It was his third 3 of the first half, giving him 12 points. Anthony entered Monday’s game against the Hawks nine points behind Hayes’ career total of 27,313.

He finished the night with 14 points overall — and 27,318 for his career — as Portland fell to Atlanta, 123-114.

“I think after it’s done, whenever it happens, I think I’ll be more in awe of it,” Anthony told ESPN by phone last week. “This is something I never, ever thought about. When you’re young you look up at that list and you’re like, ‘Damn, so-and-so has that many points? I’ll never be able to do that.’ I’m more just in awe of it.”

Moses Malone is next up on the all-time list at 27,409, a reachable number this season if Anthony maintains his current scoring pace.

Anthony’s journey to the top 10 comes with context, with him away from the NBA for a season after being cut by the Houston Rockets after just 10 games early in the 2018-19 season. Anthony continued working out and signed with the Trail Blazers in November 2019, starting all 58 games last season. He agreed to a bench role this season with Portland and entered Monday averaging 13.6 points as a sixth man.

A 10-time NBA All-Star, Anthony is in his 18th NBA season. He won the scoring title with the New York Knicks in 2012-13, averaging 28.7 points. Anthony spent 10 consecutive seasons in the top 10 in scoring and finished as a runner-up for the scoring title twice in that stretch.

Anthony’s point distribution is 13,970 in eight seasons with the Denver Nuggets, 10,186 in seven seasons with the Knicks, 1,261 in one season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, 134 with the Rockets and now 1,754 in two seasons with the Blazers.

This season, Anthony has moved past Tim DuncanDominique Wilkins, Oscar Robertson and Hakeem Olajuwon in scoring.

Alex Rodriguez Finalizing Deal to Buy the Minnesota Timberwolves

It looks like Alex Rodriguez is ready to get in the basketball business…

The 45-year-old Dominican American former MLB slugger Alex Rodriguez and billionaire Marc Lore are finalizing a deal to purchase the Minnesota Timberwolves from majority owner Glen Taylor, according to ESPN.

Alex Rodriguez

The purchase price in the deal is expected to be in the $1.5 billion range, sources said.

Taylor will continue to hold full control of the team for two years before Rodriguez and Lore take over in 2023.

“We look forward to entering this phase of the process with Glen Taylor,” Rodriguez and Lore said in a joint statement on Saturday. “Our respect for him and the legacy he has built lays an amazing foundation for what is to come. We are excited by the prospect of getting to know the Timberwolves organization.”

Taylor announced in July 2020 that he was looking for a buyer. The terms of the sale are similar to talks Taylor had in the past year with billionaire Ryan Smith, who walked away from a potential deal to ultimately purchase the Utah Jazz for $1.66 billion in October.

Taylor, 79, saved basketball in Minnesota when he bought the team for $88 million in 1994 after it nearly moved to New Orleans. But he has had an unspectacular ownership run in the 16 years since, reaching the playoffs only once.

Taylor has discussed keeping the Timberwolves in Minnesota with new ownership, but Rodriguez’s ties to Seattle and that city’s desire for a return of an NBA franchise could become an issue in the long term.

Rodriguez was also part of a group that bid unsuccessfully for the New York Mets.

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire Defeats Emmanuel Sanchez to Defend Bellator Featherweight Title

Patricio “Pitbull” Freire proves once again why he’s considered the best fighter in Bellator

The 33-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist and two-division champion, perhaps the top featherweight in all of MMA, handed Emmanuel Sanchez his first stoppage loss with a technical submission by guillotine choke in Round 1 to successfully defend his 145-pound title in the main event of Bellator 255 in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Patricio "Pitbull" Freire

The fight, which took place at Mohegan Sun Arena in front of no fans because of the coronavirus pandemic, was a semifinal in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.

Freire (32-4), who also reigns at lightweight, will take on unbeaten A.J. McKee in the final on a date to be determined.

Freire has won seven straight fights and has 20 wins overall in Bellator, the most ever in the promotion. He is one of only two fighters to become a Bellator double champion, along with heavyweight champ Ryan Bader, who used to also reign at light heavyweight. Freire is No. 4 in the ESPN men’s featherweight rankings.