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Ronaldinho: a player so good he made you smile

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 09:11

The Brazilian has retired after an extraordinary career but his wonderful talent will be remembered for ever. ‘He changed our history,’ the Barcelona midfielder Xavi said

Ronaldinho. See? You’re smiling already. Just thinking about the things he did and the way he did them, the way he was, gets you giggling. Look him up on YouTube and maybe you’ll fall for him all over again, a bit like all those defenders. Watch for long enough – it won’t take long – and you might even feel like standing to applaud, just like the Santiago Bernabéu did, an ovation for a Barcelona player, as if for all the rivalry they hadn’t so much been beaten by his genius as shared in it. Sergio Ramos was on the floor, they were on their feet. Cameras zoomed on a man in the north stand with a moustache and a cigarette hanging limp from his lip. Bloody hell, did you see what he just did?

Related: Golden Goal: Ronaldinho for Barcelona v Chelsea (2005) | Daniel Harris

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'Little girls don't stay little forever': abuse victims confront Larry Nassar – video

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 09:03

Dozens of abuse victims testify at the sentencing hearing of sports doctor Larry Nassar in Michigan on Tuesday. Nassar, who was the USA Gymnastics team doctor at four Olympic Games, was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges last month. Now he faces an additional punishment after pleading guilty to further charges of criminal sexual conduct

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Justin Rose hits back at ‘boring golf’ tag – ‘This is an exciting time’

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:19
World No 6 says the return of Tiger Woods plus diverse rivalry among the top players should make 2018 a great year

The new golfing year presents an opportunity the sport hopes will offset recurring concern. Tiger Woods will not compete in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, which begins on Thursday, but discussion regarding what the returning great could bring to the game in a time of supposed need refuses to go away.

Last week’s YouGov poll, which named golf as the most boring spectator sport, refuelled debate over perception. The European Tour has tried harder than most to improve the game’s appeal but most onlookers are aware that stars shape the story.

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Liverpool footballer Jon Flanagan sentenced for assault

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 08:07

Player handed down 12-month community order for attacking his girlfriend, Rachael Wall

Liverpool footballer Jon Flanagan has been sentenced to a 12-month community order for assaulting his girlfriend on a night out.

Flanagan, 25, pleaded guilty earlier this month to the common assault by beating of Rachael Wall, with whom he had been in a relationship for 18 months. Liverpool crown court heard on Wednesday that the couple were now back together.

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Tyler Hilinski, Washington State quarterback, dies in apparent suicide at 21

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 07:41
  • WSU coach Mike Leach pays tribute to ‘incredible young man’
  • Police say note was found near college football player’s body

Washington State quarterback Tyler Hilinski has died after apparently taking his own life.

The 21-year-old Hilinski was discovered in his apartment after he didn’t show up for practice on Tuesday. Pullman Police Department said they found a suicide note near his body.

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Scarlets turn back clock 13 years to Stephen Jones’ thrilling Paris dash | Paul Rees

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 07:21
Champions Cup victory over Bath brings back memories of Wales’ 2005 Grand Slam, plus Toulon president in hot water

Watching the velvet Scarlets reducing Bath to despair was to be transported back 13 years when Wales won the Grand Slam after ripping up the coaching manual and playing with a lot of swash and even more buckle.

Wales’s architect was Stephen Jones, a fly-half who made his name at Llanelli. He was not a twinkle-toed tantaliser like other Stradey Park alumni, such as Barry John, Phil Bennett, Jonathan Davies and Colin Stephens but his thinking was as acute.

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Debate rages but VAR’s reckoning nears as football prepares for revolution

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 06:58
The technology has had a mixed start but will become part of the sport forever if its trial is deemed successful on Monday

On Monday, a small group of Belgian academics will hold the future of the world’s most popular sport in their hands. The team from the University of Leuven, led by Prof Werner Helsen, will travel to Zurich and present the findings of two years of study to the International Football Association Board (Ifab). If their findings are positive then video assistant referees will become part of football for good.

Technically speaking, the rubber stamp on any decision will be given by Ifab at its AGM in March. But next week will be when a project that has encompassed 14 different countries, hundreds of matches, thousands of officials, tens of thousands of incidents and innumerable camera angles will finally be assessed. So what can we expect?

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Never managed and didn’t apply: how the FA made Phil Neville its No 1 | Marina Hyde

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 06:26
Surprising frontrunner for the job of England women’s manager sums up the FA’s continuing bumbling approach

What an amusing inevitability to learn that Phil Neville is the frontrunner for the job of managing the England women’s side. I very much enjoyed my colleague Louise Taylor’s report into the matter, which stated: “It is understood the 40-year-old’s name was initially suggested to the Football Association in a lighthearted manner by a well-known broadcaster at a drinks reception last month.”

This is my favourite How Job Applications Work story since George Osborne’s friends asked the former chancellor for his advice on their pitches for the Evening Standard editorship. Sorry, guys – he had a look at your proposals, but in the end the opportunity was just too good to pass up. A failed candidate for the Times’s graduate trainee scheme back in the day, he proceeded straight to newspaper editor.

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Laura Robson becomes first player to suggest renaming Margaret Court Arena

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 06:24
• Robson first player at Australian Open to back Billie Jean King
• ‘It’s a tough one but people need to have a think’ says 23-year-old

Laura Robson has come out in favour of renaming Margaret Court Arena, becoming the first current player at the Australian Open to advocate doing so.

The former British No1 believes Court’s outspoken and hugely controversial views about LGBT issues and same-sex marriage do merit action from Tennis Australia and the Victorian government.

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Ben Stokes: all-rounder cleared to play for England after affray charge

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 06:01

• Player can take part in Twenty20 tri-series and Test matches
• Stokes had been suspended since incident in Bristol city centre

Ben Stokes will return to international cricket in February, after the ECB lifted his suspension on Wednesday morning. On Monday, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that Stokes would be charged with affray, and the England and Wales Cricket Board’s 13 board members convened, with chairman Colin Graves present via conference call from New Zealand. Stokes is expected to join the squad in New Zealand for February’s T20 matches which form part of the Twenty20 tri-series with New Zealand and Australia.

The ECB released the following statement: “Following a full board discussion, in which all considerations were taken into account, the ECB board has agreed that Ben Stokes should now be considered for England selection.

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Nick Kyrgios stays calm amid distractions to beat Viktor Troicki at Australian Open

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 05:57
  • Australian No 17 seed wins 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2) on Hisense Arena
  • Noise trouble, umpire’s shouts and excited fan embarrass organisers

Just like the sound system on his favourite court, Hisense Arena, Nick Kyrgios began match two of his Australian Open campaign in a state of less-than-ideal function before sealing a straight-sets victory 7-5, 6-4, 7-6 (2).

In the same twilight slot as Monday, Kyrgios set out to repeat his first round demolition job, but while the No 17 seed’s outfit and newfound zen demeanor promised more of the same, something at first seemed amiss.

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Chelsea open talks with West Ham over signing Andy Carroll on permanent deal

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 05:34
• Chelsea told they will not be able to get Carroll on six-month loan
• West Ham want around £20m for striker they bought for £15m

Chelsea have indicated they would be willing to sign Andy Carroll on a permanent basis and have opened discussions with West Ham as they seek to bolster Antonio Conte’s ranks up front.

The Premier League champions are scrutinising a number of forwards in an attempt to ease the workload on Álvaro Morata but, having initially been interested in taking Carroll on a six-month loan, they are considering whether to lodge a bid to sign him permanently. West Ham would want around £20m for a player who has 18 months on his £70,000-a-week deal.

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Meet Jon Bakero: the MLS SuperDraft prospect with ties to Johan Cruyff

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 05:30

The son of longtime Spanish international José Mari Bakero is one of the most intriguing prospects heading into Friday’s MLS SuperDraft

It isn’t common practice for the son of a World Cup starter to enter the MLS SuperDraft.

Once seen as a vital way to acquire affordable starting talent, the draft has seen its stock take a hit in recent iterations. An increase in league-issued allocation funds has improved the quality of the majority of each MLS lineup, leaving fewer places for domestic players. In general, this hits hardest for young players who went to college in the United States and Canada. Where a promising prospect used to be thrust into the lineup for a trial by fire, they instead are blocked by Scandinavian veterans, returning US internationals and respected veterans from overseas.

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Eddie Jones signs contract extension as England coach till 2021

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 05:12
• Previous contract was due to end after 2019 World Cup
• RFU board has also agreed process for appointing successor

Eddie Jones’ contract as England head coach has been extended by two years to August 2021, the Rugby Football Union has announced.

Jones was due to step down after the World Cup in 2019 but having overseen a run of 22 wins from 23 Tests, his bosses have decided to lengthen his reign while inserting into the terms of the deal a performance break clause after Japan 2019.

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Which is the least successful English footballing city? | The Knowledge

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 05:00

Plus: the greatest of escapes and managers playing against their former clubs. Mail us your questions and answers or tweet @TheKnowledge_GU

“The beautiful city of Bristol has had two league clubs pretty much consistently since 1920, combining for a total of 212 years of league football, with only three Football League Trophies and one Welsh Cup to show for it,” mails Andy Field. “Does this make it the least successful multi-club city?”

Paul Levay thinks Stoke-on-Trent can challenge Bristol. “I admit that Bristol has a pretty rubbish record but Stoke-on-Trent is a competitor for the country’s most inglorious multi-club footballing city,” he says.

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Wolves’ John Ruddy: ‘Everyone’s thoughts are always with Carl Ikeme’

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 05:00
In the first blog of our weekly Football League series, John Ruddy says he hopes his fellow goalkeeper, who has leukaemia, will be part of any promotion party

At times this season, John Ruddy has enjoyed possibly the best view in the house. “We have had some games where I am literally just watching in awe of what they are doing,” the Wolverhampton Wanderers goalkeeper says. His team-mates may have lit up the Championship but the ever-present Ruddy has brought plenty to the table too, notably 15 clean sheets, more than any other team in the country.

He is engaging and erudite, and makes tremendous company at the club’s training complex during a conversation that spans from never giving up on playing for England to being at ease on the lawn mower. But inside 45 seconds he inevitably stumbles upon the P-word. “I think the club and the hierarchy, in terms of the board and the owners, are fully focused on developing and progressing the club and obviously with that comes … promotion,” Ruddy says. It is difficult not to imagine Wolves returning to the Premier League for the first time since 2012; they have not lost since October.

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Rafael Nadal eases past Leonardo Mayer into third round of Australian Open

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 04:20
• Top seed beats battling Argentinian in straight sets
• Spaniard faces Bosnian 28th seed Damir Dzumhur next

Rafael Nadal withstood a spirited performance from Leonardo Mayer to reach the third round of the Australian Open.

The world No 1 was not as dominant as in his first-round win over Victor Estrella Burgos but that had a lot to do with the performance of Argentinian Mayer, who refused to allow Nadal to pull away.

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Former Wallaby George Smith arrested for punching Japanese taxi driver – reports

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 03:41

Smith reportedly apprehended by police in Japan after refusing to pay a 10,000 yen ($126) cab fare on new year’s eve

The Queensland Reds are braced for more off-field drama after revelations former Wallaby George Smith had been arrested for punching a Japanese taxi driver on new year’s eve.

The Yomiuri Shimbun Daily reported on Wednesday that a drunken Smith was apprehended by police in Japan after refusing to pay a 10,000 yen ($126) cab fare and fleeing, then punching the taxi driver. The driver reportedly chased him multiple times shortly after midnight on 31 December.

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Australian Open 2018: Kyrgios, Dimitrov and more – day three live!

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 03:32

8.31am GMT

Two match points for Nadal at 6-4 in the third-set tie-break. Mayer can’t get Nadal’s serve back into play and that’s that! Nadal wins 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (4) and, ever the gent, applauds Mayer off court. The score perhaps doesn’t reflect how well the Argentinian played; he really took it to the world No1. But the stats do show how well Nadal played: 40 winners, only 10 unforced errors and his first serve was over 70%. Knee problems? Pah! What knee problems. If Nadal is feeling fine physically, there’s no reason why he can’t go a set better than last year and win the title.

8.21am GMT

The latest performance of the Nick Kyrgios show is under way on Hisense. Australia’s top title hope was nice Nick in the first round; apart from an early warning from the umpire after venting at a noisy fan who interrupted him, he was on his best behaviour. But will it be naughty Nick today? He’s taking on Serbia’s Viktor Troicki, another bad boy of tennis who is no stranger to a rant or two. Troicki, who served a ban a few years ago for violating tennis’ anti-doping programme for failing to provide a blood sample, was introduced on court today as a “journeyman of the tour”. Not sure whether he’ll take that as a compliment or not. It’s going with serve early on, Troicki leading 2-1. Make that 2-2, sealed with a huge serve from down the T from Kyrgios.

Have you EVER seen an outburst like this at #Wimbledon!? Viktor Troicki

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Football transfer rumours: Milan's André Silva to Wolves or Swansea?

Wed, 01/17/2018 - 03:30

Today’s tell-all is too cold to hold

We knew it was too good to be true. The Alexis Sánchez saga had looked like a trip to the old school, where transfer impasses were settled with an arm-wrestle and contract talks could be completed between last orders and closing time. Manchester United were all set for an old-fashioned swoop – but then Henrikh Mkhitaryan, or more specifically his Mr 15%, Mino Raiola, got the hump. Now we play the waiting game, with both players’ values, salaries and self-esteem to be delicately balanced.

Speaking of agents – because we just don’t hear enough of them these days – Jorge Mendes is hoping to sell his Wolves project to Milan’s André Silva, but Swansea City, one place above them in the league ladder, have stolen a march in the race for a striker Milan splashed £33m on just seven months ago. The two sides meet in an FA Cup replay on Wednesday night, so maybe they can settle it the old-fashioned way.

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