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Messi napkin set for £300k auction in March

The napkin which famously launched Lionel Messi’s Barcelona career as a 13-year-old will be auctioned off in March with a starting price of £300,000 ($382,150). With Messi’s father, Jorge, beginning to doubt Barça’s commitment to his son in 2000, the club’s director of football at the time, Carles Rexach, hastily scrambled together an agreement on a napkin. – Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.) It was signed by Rexach,…

Why the secrecy around Man City’s FFP case with Premier League is so damaging

On Jan. 16, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters faced a British parliamentary committee and addressed arguably the biggest disciplinary case involving the most successful club in the recent history of the English game: the 115 charges against Manchester City that, if proven, could see the club stripped of titles, relegated, fined, sued, tarred, feathered and made to sit in a corner until kingdom come. “There is a date set…

Messi could miss NYRB clash for Argentina tour

Lionel Messi could miss Inter Miami’s clash with New York Red Bulls in March, with world champions Argentina announcing they will go on a two-game tour of China. The Argentina captain has scored 11 goals in his 14 appearances since joining Inter Miami in June as a free agent and is preparing to take on his first full season in Major League Soccer. – Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more…

Pep pondering ‘many things’ before City renewal

Pep Guardiola said he will take “many things” into consideration before he decides whether to extend his contract at Manchester City. The Man City manager has a contract at the Etihad Stadium until 2025 and is set to decide on his future later this year. – Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.) Guardiola, who saw rival Jurgen Klopp announce his departure from Liverpool last week citing a lack of…

Xavi, Klopp, Eriksson and the hypocritical treatment of managers

Three important football coaches announced their impending departures across the past few days: Sven-Göran Eriksson, Jürgen Klopp and Xavi Hernández. The former two were greeted by waves of emotional disbelief and gushing appreciation as a vast range of people said, explicitly and implicitly: “We love you, we respect what you’ve done. This is going to leave a chasm in our lives.” Xavi’s shock announcement that he feels beaten up, blamed…

Five ambitious Asian nations on course for the 2026 World Cup in North America

Doha, QATAR — It’s becoming something of a theme across most senior international tournaments these days, that men or women, world or continental, the gap between the perceived haves and the have-nots, the heavyweights and the lightweights, is shrinking. As the United States, Canada and Mexico prepare to host an expanded, 48-team men’s World Cup in 2026, the dreams of some of world football’s lesser-known forces are coming to the…

Liverpool oblige Klopp desire for normalcy on farewell tour

LIVERPOOL, England — Jurgen Klopp made one thing crystal clear on Friday when announcing his decision to stand down as Liverpool manager at the end of the season: from now until his final day in the job, it has to be business as usual at Anfield. That Klopp got his wish, on and off the pitch, during the FA Cup win over Norwich on Sunday showed just how much he…

The story of Barca’s midnight kickoff: Ronaldinho, gazpacho and a party

West Bromwich Albion’s derby game against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the FA Cup this weekend (stream all games live on ESPN+) kicks off at the unusually early time of 11:45 a.m. on Sunday. “Early?” Barçelona might reply to that. “Hold my gazpacho.” That’s because the earliest a professional football match has ever kicked off — or should this be the latest? — was at Camp Nou in September 2003 when Barça…

European soccer news: Maidstone United’s FA Cup magic, Barca lose and Xavi announces exit, more

It was another fun day across European soccer, with talking points galore in the English FA Cup, Spain’s LaLiga and the German Bundesliga among others. The highlights: Maidstone United shrugged off their minnows status to shock Ipswich Town 2-1 in the FA Cup fourth round, Barcelona came back from 2-0 down vs. Villarreal only to lose 5-3, and Harry Kane scored as Bayern Munich held on to defeat Augsburg 3-2.…