James Rodriguez Joins Qatari Side Al Rayyan

James Rodriguez is headed to the Middle East…

The 30-year-old Colombian professional footballer and Everton midfielder has joined Qatari side Al Rayyan for an undisclosed fee, both clubs have confirmed.

James Rodríguez

Sources previously told ESPN that Rodriguez was discussing a move with the Qatari club after Everton gave him permission to leave Goodison Park. He was told by manager Rafa Benitez, who replaced Carlo Ancelotti this summer, that he was not in his plans.

The midfielder made an impressive start after he joined from Real Madrid in September 2020, scoring three goals in his first five games, but injury and loss of form saw his contribution diminish markedly in the second half of the season.

He made a total of 26 appearances in all competitions during his time at the club.

Rodriguez began his career at Colombian side Enviagado and later Argentine side Banfield before enjoying spells at FC PortoAS MonacoMadrid and Bayern Munich.

He said in April that he only joined Everton so he could be reunited with Ancelotti, who had signed him for Madrid in 2014 and Bayern in 2017.

Everton had the option of extending his contract at the end of the season if he were to make enough first team appearances, but sources told ESPN that the club were keen to move his £10 million-a-year salary off the club’s wage bill.

His last appearance for the Premier League side came in a 1-0 defeat at home to Sheffield United in May.

Rodriguez has 80 international caps for Colombia, scoring 23 goals, and played in two World Cup tournaments, notably winning the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Diego Costa Signs with Brazilian Club Atletico Mineiro

Diego Costa is mining new opportunities…

The 32-year-old Brazilian Spanish soccer player has signed with Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro, with the Spain international player set to return to action after eight months.

Diego Costa,

Costa, a former Atletico Madrid and Chelsea striker, had been without a club since December following his departure from Atletico Madrid after the LaLiga champions agreed to the Brazil-born player’s request to rescind his contract.

It was his second spell at Atletico Madrid, having earlier played for the club from 2010-14.

In the 2013-14 season, Costa helped Atletico to the Spanish title with 27 goals and they also reached the Champions League final but lost 4-1 to rivals Real Madrid in extra-time after Costa was forced off early with a hamstring injury.

Costa joined Chelsea in 2014 and was an instant hit, firing the London club to the 2014-15 and 2016-17 Premier League titles with 20 goals in each campaign.

He returned to Atletico Madrid in January 2018 but injuries limited him to 43 LaLiga starts in three years as he scored 12 goals, and opportunities were further limited by the signings of Joao Felix and Luis Suarez.

The enigmatic striker joins Atletico Mineiro, who defeated second-placed Palmeiras 2-0 earlier on Saturday and extended their lead at the top of Brazil’s Serie A to five points.

Sergio Ramos to Undergo Medical Ahead of Joining Paris Saint-Germain as Free Agent

It’s twilight in Paris for Sergio Ramos

The 35-year-old Spanish professional footballer will undergo a medical in Paris on Tuesday ahead of joining Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent, according to ESPN.

Sergio Ramos

Sources added that Ramos, a veteran defender, agreed to join the Ligue 1 giants on a two-year deal.

Ramos announced last month that he’d leave Real Madrid after failing to reach an agreement to extend his 16-year stay in the Spanish capital.

Manchester City and Bayern Munich had shown an interest in acquiring the Spain international, but the experienced centerback preferred PSG‘s project.

Ramos didn’t strike an agreement with Madrid due to discrepancies over the length of the deal. Los Blancos were only willing to offer one year and by the time Ramos agreed to accept the club’s proposal he was told the deadline had expired.

Ramos had wanted a two-year deal. His wages at PSG are set to be lower than what he was earning in Spain and what he would have earned had he stayed at the Bernabeu.

Ramos will land in Paris just hours after the arrival of his former Real Madrid teammate Achraf Hakimi. Hakimi, 22, is expected to join PSG on a €70m transfer from Inter Milan, sources have told ESPN.

The Morocco international posted a message on Twitter on Monday hinting that he was on his way to the French capital.

Rafael Benitez Named New Manager of Everton

Rafael Benitez is taking on a new role…

The 61-year-old Spanish professional football manager and former player, a former Liverpool boss, has been appointed as new manager of Merseyside rivals Everton.

Rafael Benitez

Benitez has put pen to paper on a three-year deal with the Premier League club and replaces Carlo Ancelotti, who made a shock return to Real Madrid on June 1.

Earlier this month, Benitez was in talks to take charge at Goodison Park but faced competition from Roberto Martinez, Eddie Howe and Nuno Espirito Santo for the vacant position, according to ESPN.

“You can see the ambition is there,” Benitez told Everton TV. “This club is growing.

“For me, it is about bringing the winning mentality, being competitive, so everything is in place on the pitch and off the pitch. I love the passion of the people behind the club. I know the city, I know Scousers, I know what it means for every fan here to compete and to have the chance to win.

“To come to Everton is something that means a lot, for sure. You can see the ambition of the owner, of the board, everybody wants to be better and to go to the new stadium with a massive boost. I like to compete. I like to win. I came from the academy at Real Madrid [as a young player and coach], and the winning mentality is already there.

“We [Benitez and the coaching staff] have won 13 titles because we have this mentality and I still want to win. And I have come to Everton because I liked the idea to be competitive again — and to have the chance to compete in every game, to compete against anyone.”

Everton’s majority shareholder, Farhad Moshiri, added: “Rafa impressed us greatly with his knowledge and experience but, above all, the passion and hunger he showed to join our club. We are appointing Rafa because we believe he will bring success to our Club and to Evertonians.

“To put it simply — we need to be competing at the top end of the league and to be winning trophies. Rafa is a proven winner with huge experience in coaching internationally and we have secured the best man to achieve that for us.”

The appointment is a controversial one, as Benitez spent six years at Anfield, winning the Champions LeagueFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup during his spell.

During his time at Liverpool, Benitez described Everton as a “small club,” but he has since claimed that his remarks were misinterpreted.

It is not the first time Benitez’s appointment has caused controversy after he temporarily took charge of Liverpool’s rivals Chelsea in 2012.

The Spaniard has been out of work since leaving Chinese team Dalian Professional in January.

Benitez has an impressive track record of winning trophies during his managerial career after leading Valencia to two La Liga titles and a UEFA Super Cup.

He also won the FIFA Club World Cup with Inter Milan, the Coppa Italia with Napoli and the Europa League at Chelsea. Benitez has also managed Real Madrid and Newcastle United.

Everton will be hopeful Benitez can help the club lift their first major trophy since 1995.

Jose Bordalas Named Head Coach of Valencia CF

It’s bat-ter up time for Jose Bordalas.

The 57-year-old Spanish former-footballer-turned-manager has signed a two-year contract with an optional third, with Valencia CF, known as Los murciélagos, to serve as their new head coach.

Jose Bordalas

The announcement comes just two days after ending a successful five-season spell at Getafe.

Earlier this month Valencia sacked coach Javi Gracia — the 11th coach to leave the club in nine years — and finished 13th in the standings in La Liga under interim coach Voro.

“I’ve come here to work, to try to make Valencia CF a very competitive team, to occupy the place it deserves,” Bordalas said during his unveiling on Thursday.

“I will adapt to the possibilities of the club or the squad. If the club must remove or sell players, it will be out of necessity. We will work to incorporate players who come with enthusiasm, who are competitive. We want Valencia CF to regain its football status in La Liga, that is my goal. We start from scratch. I will put all my knowledge at the service of Valencia CF and I want to get the fans excited again.”

Valencia club owner Peter Lim has been at the centre of criticism over his management. Lim acquired then debt-ridden Valencia in 2014 but has not been a popular figure, with the club having regularly been forced to sell top players to reduce the outfit’s high debts and made no signings to strengthen the squad.

There have been calls for Lim, who is rarely in Valencia, to move aside and sell the club.

Bordalas had been in charge of Getafe since September 2016, leading the team back to La Liga in his first season before recording back-to-back top-10 finishes.

Getafe avoided relegation in the past two campaigns and finished two places behind Valencia this season. The Madrid outfit has appointed former coach Michel as the new head coach, who managed the team between 2009 and 2011 and guided it into the Europa League.

A former Real Madrid star, Michel has not coached since resigning for personal reasons as manager of Mexican side Pumas in the summer of 2020 after one year in charge.

 

Orlando City SC Sign Alexandre Pato on a One-Year Deal

Alexandre Pato will be kickin’ it up in Central Florida…

The 31-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and former AC Milan forward is set to join Orlando City SC, according to ESPN.

Alexandre Pato

The Lions teased the signing with a pair of Tweets on Friday containing a picture of a duck. (Pato means “duck” in Portuguese.) An announcement could come as soon as this weekend.

Sources say Pato has signed a one-year deal and will not be a Designated Player.

His salary will be brought down with General Allocation Money and includes an option for an additional year. Orlando recently sent striker Daryl Dike on loan to English Championship side Barnsley.

The Mane Land were among the first outlets who reported the Pato deal.

Pato’s lengthy club career includes stints at AC Milan, Chelsea and Villarreal, as well several Brazilian teams and Chinese club Tianjin Tianhai. He was most recently on the books of Sao Paulo, his second stint with the club, and one where he scored nine goals in 35 league and cup appearances. But he has been without a team since he and Sao Paulo reached an agreement in August of 2020 to terminate his contract.

His most successful spell at club level came with AC Milan, where he played from 2007-13. In that time he scored 63 goals in 140 league and cup appearances, and helped the side to a Serie A title in 2010-11 and the Supercoppa Italiana in 2011.

Pato is an ex-Brazil international, scoring 10 goals in 27 appearances, the last of which came in 2013.

Pato is the latest Brazilian star to join Orlando, the club where ex-Milan and Real Madrid midfielder Kaka played from 2014-17. There are currently four other Brazilians currently on the team’s roster in Junior Urso, RuanAntonio Carlos and Matteus Aias.

Santiago Solari Named New Manager at Club America

Santiago Solari has joined the Club…

Club America has announced that it has hired the 44-year-old Argentine professional football manager and former player, a former Real Madrid manager, to fill the team’s vacant manager position.

Santiago Solari

The Liga MX giants fired Miguel Herrera on December 21 after the club crashed out of the Liga MX playoffs against bitter rival Chivas and then fell to LAFC in the semifinal of the CONCACAF Champions League on December 18.

Solari managed Real Madrid for a short spell between November 2018 and March 2019, before being sacked and replaced by Zinedine Zidane.

At club level, Solari played for River Plate, Real Madrid and Inter Milan, among others. He also made 11 appearances for the Argentina national team.

Solari will oversee his first match for Club America against Atletico San Luis when the Liga MX Clausura begins on January 9.

Lionel Messi Moves Past Pele to Become the New Leader in the Single Club Goal Tally

Lionel Messi has overtaken a legend…

The 33-year-old Argentine professional soccer star has surpassed Brazil’s legendary footballer Pele to become the player to score the most goals for a single club after taking his tally to 644 on Tuesday.

Lionel Messi

The record-breaking goal came in the second half of Barca‘s 3-0 win at Valladolid, with Messi taking the ball in stride off a nifty flick from Pedri for a finish into the corner of the net.

Pele struck 643 competitive goals for Santos during an 18-year stay with the Brazilian club. He left for the New York Cosmos in 1975 and until Messi’s goal, the record had stood ever since.

 

Gerd Muller came closest to matching Pele’s one-club goal-scoring feat. The former Germany international netted 565 times for Bayern Munich between 1964 and 1979. The top five is completed by Fernando Peyroteo (Sporting CP 1937-49, 544 goals) and Josef Bican (Slavia Prague 1950s, 534 goals).

 

“When I started to play football, I never thought I would break any record. Especially not the record held by Pele that I now hold,” Messi wrote on Instagram after Tuesday’s game. “I can only give thanks to everyone that has helped me throughout the years, my teammates, my family, my friends and everyone that supports me every day.”

 

The only other active player still in the top 10 is Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored 450 goals for Real Madrid. The Juventus striker is 10th behind Jimmy McGrory (Celtic 1922-37, 522 goals), Jimmy Jones (Glenavon 1951-62, 517 goals), Uwe Seeler (Hamburg 1953-72, 507 goals) and Eusebio (Benfica 1961-75, 473 goals).

Messi’s Barcelona goals have been spread across 16 years in the club’s first team. He scored his first professional goal in 2005 against Albacete as a 17-year-old.

Along with Ronaldo, who played for Manchester United before Madrid and Juve, Messi has taken goal scoring to new heights over the past decade. Everyone else in the top 10 has been retired for at least 40 years.

Messi reached his zenith in the 2011-12 season, Pep Guardiola‘s final year in charge of Barcelona, when he scored 73 goals in all competitions. That tally was sandwiched in between 53 the previous season and 60 the season after.

The Argentina forward has scored more than 50 goals in a season on six occasions, including 58 in 2014-15 when he won his second Treble as a Barca player.

Messi replaced Cesar Rodriguez (232 goals) as Barca’s top scorer in 2012 and overtook Telmo Zarra (251 league goals) as the record scorer in La Liga in 2014.

In addition to his 644 goals with Barca’s senior side, he scored 11 goals for the C team and the B team as a teenager.

Sergio Ramos Becomes Most Capped European Player Ever

There’s a new feather in Sergio Ramos’ cap(ped)…

The 34-year-old Spanish soccer player has become the most capped male European footballer ever, making his 177th appearance for Spain in their UEFA Nations League 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Saturday.

Sergio Ramos

But the milestone day almost turned into a nightmare as Ramos squandered two penalties in the stalemate, after not having not missed in his previous 24 attempts for either Spain or Real Madrid.

The defender — who captains both club and country — has now played one international game more than the previous record holder, former Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, who retired from international duty in

Ramos is now targeting the world record held by Egypt‘s Ahmed Hassan, who played 184 games for his country between 1995 and 2012. The defender could reach that mark at next summer’s Euro 2020 tournament, if he features in all of Spain’s matches before then.

But Spain coach Luis Enrique said Ramos’s twin spot-kick misses wouldn’t affect his captain.

“Sergio’s numbers when it comes to taking penalties are in the reach of few players. If we had got a third penalty or a fourth one he would have taken them as well,” he said. “He had scored his last 25, but football has moments like this.”

The number one spot-kick taker for Real Madrid and Spain, despite being a defender, Ramos has turned penalty taking into an art in the last two years, with his last miss coming when he hit the crossbar in Madrid’s 3-2 defeat by Sevilla FC in May 2018.

He has confessed to relishing the high-stakes situation of a penalty, scoring a number of crucial spot-kicks in Real’s run to the La Liga title last season as well as netting from the spot in last month’s 3-1 win at Barcelona.

But he finally met his match in Swiss keeper Yann Sommer, who guessed the right way to parry Ramos’ first penalty early in the second half and then refused to be fooled by the Spaniard’s ‘Panenka‘ routine which has worked so well for him in the past.

“It’s a real shame that Ramos missed the penalties because he’s usually so good,” added Spain forward Dani Olmo.

“But he’s very strong mentally and I’m sure that the next time he takes a penalty he’ll score.”

Saturday’s start further entrenches a remarkable international career that began when he made his Spain debut in March 2005, coming on for Carles Puyol at half time in a 3-0 friendly win over China.

He initially featured as a right back — including at Euro 2008, Spain’s first tournament win in 44 years, and in the country’s only World Cup winning side in 2010 — before switching to centerback for their defense of the European Championship title in 2012.

Despite turning 35 next March, he has expressed a desire to feature not just at the Euros in June, but also the Tokyo Olympics, describing the possibility as “a nice idea, an event no-one would say no to.”

Robinho Returning to Santos for Just Above Brazil’s Minimum Wage Rate

Robinho isn’t afraid to earn a lot less to play for his boyhood club…

The 36-year-old Brazilian professional footballer and former Manchester City forward has signed a five-month contract with former club Santos, and he’ll earn $271 (R$1.500) a month, which is just above the country’s minimum wage.

Robinho

Robinho re-joined his boyhood club for a third stint as a free agent, having left Turkish side Istanbul Basaksehir shortly after helping them win their first Super Lig title last season.

“I will play for a minimum wage, but the most important thing is to be here,” Robinho told the club’s official website.

“I am well physically and mentally, obviously there is still a little bit of rhythm [missing], but that over time we will gradually evolve.”

Robinho, who shot to fame after making his professional debut with Santos in 2002, went on to play for Real Madrid, City and AC Milan, among other clubs.

He won two national championships, two Paulista tournaments and the Brazilian Cup in his previous two spells with Santos.

“I have many fond memories here,” Robinho added. “The fans can be certain that I will give my best to help Santos FC on and off the pitch.

Santos FC is going through a difficult financial time. So this is the time for those who can do something. I want to help the club that always gave me everything. Santos FC has already done a lot for me and this return is still little.”

Santos are going through financial difficulties and could soon face a transfer ban from FIFA over unpaid debts.

Chilean club Huachipato are demanding Santos to complete the $3.4m deal over the signing of Venezuelan striker Jefferson Soteldo, while Colombian outfit Atletico Nacional claim they are still owed $774,000 from the sale of defender Felipe Aguilar.