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Robert Lewandowski reportedly set to sign with Barça

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Is Lewandowski Barça bound?

Is Lewandowski Barça bound?
Image: Getty Images

We didn’t really get as big of a window to laugh at Barcelona as we thought or hoped. Proving the life lesson that you need to celebrate anything worth celebrating at that time and that place or you’ll miss the opportunity. Barça is roaring in La Liga right now, all the way up to second after winning seven in a row and nine of their last 10. Xavi has re-instituted the flare that we associate with the club.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can’t stop scoring, and did so again yesterday. Pedri looks like the next Barça legend, and also scored yesterday in a 3-2 win over Levante, even though they gave away three penalties. That kind of thing happens and you start to believe that Xavi walks around with a pouch of magic gems and eyes of newt and all that. If the La Liga season were a month longer than it is, you sort of wonder if they wouldn’t suddenly chase down Madrid. We thought it might be multiple seasons that Barça were doing the “Trading Places,” thing. Turns out it was just a few months.

What makes it more impressive is that Xavi has basically had to do this with what was lying around that Ronald Koeman couldn’t make any sense of. Sure, he got Adama Traoré, Aubameyang, and Ferran Torres in January, but all came with questions. Traoré had never shown a finish to any of his work with the ball. Torres was the definition of ballast at Man City. Aubameyang had basically quit on Arsenal.

But Xavi not only is getting contributions from that troika, but found a system that turned Pedri into an all-conquering hero as well as finally unlocking Frenkie De Jong. He’s even been able to not only keep Ousmane Dembélé from checking out and worrying about his next contract, but to play really well in pursuit of the same.

It’s fair to ask in Barcelona aren’t better off now without Lionel Messi than with him. The two parted ways last summer due to Barça’s face-first dive into the financial cellar, and now Messi is booed by his own fans after a pretty meandering performance for PSG as they Inspector Cluseau’d their way out of the Champions League again. That doesn’t mean Barça played that whole affair well or anything resembling that. They just may have Forrest Gump’d their way to success.

But all of that doesn’t mean that Barça are done hungering for the big names in the game to come play for them, especially when it’s still a foregone conclusion that their biggest rivals, Real Madrid, are bringing in Kylian Mbappé next summer and aren’t even out of the running for Erling Haaland to join him (or at least so they say). Whatever plan Barça has, the arms race with Madrid is always front of mind

So with that, there’s an awful lot of smoke that they’ve already agreed to a contract with Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski. There’s the small issue that Lewandowski is under contract with the German squad until the summer of 2023, and that Barça still only have fresh-baked pastries available to pay for any transfer. They can pay high salaries, somehow, which Lewandowski clearly commands (rumors have the deal they’ve agreed to paying him up to $38 million a year). The hope will be that Lewandowski is able to work something out with Munich to let him go cheaply. And it’s been an open secret that Lewandowski would like to make one more big move in his career and to a different country. Chelsea was a rumored destination not so long ago. City was muted some time back. But Spain has been the most whispered destination, which means either of the two giants.

Lewandowski certainly has nothing left to prove in Germany. Just in the last two seasons he’s poured in 73 goals in 58 league games. Munich lifted the European Cup in 2020, though maybe they think it’s a little marked as it was during the pandemic and the abbreviated knockout tournament it became. They could easily win it again this year. They’ve never not won the Bundesliga with Lewy leading the line. If Lewandowski felt he needed a different challenge, you would understand. The one he faced in Germany has most certainly been conquered.

And Barça seem like a perfect fit under Xavi. They don’t play all that differently. Wingers who stay wide to provide more space for the attacking midfielders, all funneling chances and passes to a central forward. Hand Lewandowski a bucket of chances, you’ll get a bucket of goals.

Any alarm bells that might ring for Barça supporters would probably center around Lewandowski’s age. He’ll be 34 at the start of next season, which is just about the same age even Messi started to come off his delirious heights. However, Spain is about the only place where the pace of play noticeably drops from Germany. Spain might have more technical skill, but teams don’t press and counter or even move at nearly the pace they do in Germany. That might aid someone entering the twilight of his career.

The other red light might be the history of exports out of the Bundesliga. Timo Werner tore the Bundesliga apart for a couple seasons. Chelsea fans are now relieved when he gets on the field with both shoes tied. Wout Weghorst had 20-goal seasons in Germany, and he’s currently toiling for Burnley (though everyone toils at Burnley, that’s their way). Jadon Sancho has not made a mark at Man United after setting Germany alight. Luka Jović couldn’t even get into the Madrid team for seasons on end. Lewandowski certainly has more pedigree than all of them, but it is worth not totally ignoring.

It’s certainly sound planning to not count on Aubameyang long-term. He went on this heater when he arrived at Arsenal, and won them an FA Cup pretty much by himself. And that’s what Arsenal thought they would get in the following seasons, and they most certainly didn’t. He’s not going to continue to score on 35 percent of his total shots or on 53 percent of all his shots on target (career marks: 22 and 37 percent).

Lewandowski does score at those rates all the time (career mark of 40 percent goals from shots on target). Even if his legs start to go, he’s not going to need them as much in Spain (and Barça might space out his games more than Munich does), he’s going to have De Jong and Pedri and others making sure all he really has to do is get open in the box and fire home. That said, Aubameyang and Lewandowski did play together for one season in Dortmund. They combined for 33 goals. But you can see them giving each other a break in their 30s now instead of being on the field at the same time.

It’s not a long-term solution, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bridge to whatever the decade-long solution Xavi finds at center forward.



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No mention of Flores’ lawsuit in Goodell Super Bowl presser

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference in advance of Super Bowl LVII at Phoenix Convention Center on Feb. 8, 2023, in Phoenix.
Image: Getty Images

Every year at the Super Bowl, journalists get a chance to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell the questions that need to be answered on live television as the world watches. This year, the inquiries and subject matters ranged from two Black quarterbacks making history, Damar Hamlin, officiating, and the potential ways that the league will broadcast upcoming games. But, the Black cloud — no pun intended — that’s been hovering over the NFL for over a year wasn’t mentioned once on Wednesday. And it’s proof that the NFL is loving the fact that people seem to have forgotten that Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton have an ongoing class-action lawsuit against the league for its alleged racist hiring practices.

Distractions are part of the game

It’s been over a year since the former Miami Dolphins head coach — and current defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings — dropped a bomb on the sports world when he decided that legal action was the only way to make people thoroughly understand just how rigged the game is for Black coaches in the NFL.

“It’s hard to speak out…but this is bigger than football. This is bigger than coaching,” said Flores.

Days later, Goodell was on stage answering questions at the Super Bowl about that, and more.

“I think I’d start with the basis that racism or any form of discrimination is against our values. And really something that we will not tolerate,” he said at last year’s press conference.

Same as it ever was

On Wednesday, it was more of the same. “I do, but I still feel like there’s better work, and more work ahead of us,” Goodell said about the “meaningful progress” that’s taken place with diversity amongst head coaches. “I think that there is progress, and we’re pleased to see progress. But it’s never enough.”

A lot has happened since Goodell took the stage last year in Los Angeles and when he returned to it in Arizona. For instance, Steve Wilks and Ray Horton joined Flores’ lawsuit. Flores spent last season as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he’s now with the Vikings — as an assistant, again. Wilks was the interim head coach of the Carolina Panthers, but due to the history of the men who carry that title with his skin color, he never had a chance of permanently landing the job — no matter if Panthers owner David Tepper is claiming to be trying to eradicate the league’s “old boys network.” Horton is coaching in the USFL. And you can still count the number of African-American head coaches in the league on one hand and have some fingers left to spare, as Mike Tomlin (Pittsburgh), DeMeco Ryans (Houston), and Todd Bowles (Tampa Bay) are the melanated trinity.

I thought Goodell said progress was taking place. Does it look like it to you? Maybe my eyesight is bad.

Last fall, the plaintiffs’ lawyers were alleging racial bias against the NFL as the league wanted things to move to arbitration — where nobody can see. In court documents, the lawyers wrote that “arbitration would allow ‘unconscionably biased one-sided ‘kangaroo courts’ to determine the outcome. If arbitration is where things land, it means that Goodell will be the arbitrator — which is in the best interest of the teams that are being sued, and the league. The latest development occurred last week when it was reported that the judge presiding over the case has requested that more written briefings about arbitration be submitted later in the month.

What does that mean?

That this thing is still in limbo, as we’re waiting to see if this will play out in court or behind closed doors.

But, even if this arbitration decision does go the way of Brian Flores, Steve Wilks, and Ray Horton, we have no idea when the dust will finally settle — which is a win for the league. Because while the league might wind up losing this case, they have a winning strategy. Which is to ignore it, as everyone else did on a Wednesday afternoon in Glendale, Arizona.



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Man United 2-2 Leeds LIVE! Sancho goal – Premier League result, match stream and latest updates today

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S

ubstitute Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September earned Manchester United a thrilling 2-2 draw with Leeds United in the Premier League on Wednesday as the hosts came back from two goals down to salvage a point.

Leeds flew out of the traps and stunned Old Trafford into silence after 55 seconds when Wilfried Gnonto arrowed the visitors in front from the edge of the penalty area.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

However, in-form Marcus Rashford headed the hosts back into the match in the 62nd minute and Sancho stepped off the bench to rescue his side a point eight minutes later, squeezing the ball past goalkeeper Illan Meslier.

Old Trafford sensed another rousing comeback would be completed with a late winner, but their side ran out of steam, failing to win at home for the first time in 14 matches in all competitions.

United stayed third in the standings, three points ahead of Newcastle United in fourth, having played one game more.

Managerless Leeds climbed one place to 16th, one point clear of the relegation zone.

United had beaten their Roses rivals Leeds by a scoreline of 11-3 in their previous two clashes at Old Trafford, and the visitors were on a seven-game Premier League winless streak which led to manager Jesse Marsch being sacked this week.

Their form made it all the more surprising when Leeds raced into an early lead, Gnonto netting the second-earliest goal scored by an away player at Old Trafford in the Premier League, after Edin Dzeko’s strike in 2014 for Manchester City.

After De Gea denied Leeds a second with a smart stop at his near post, United twice went close to levelling as debutant Marcel Sabitzer volleyed over before Garnacho drilled just wide.

The chances kept coming for the home side, with Garnacho rounding Meslier before seeing an effort blocked and Sabitzer denied by a brilliant save.

The hosts’ profligacy looked to have proved costly as Leeds appeared to be on course to secure a first win in 18 trips to Old Trafford after Varane was powerless to prevent Crysencio Summerville’s cross rolling into his own net.

Rashford, however, had another ideas, steering a header home to become the first Manchester United player to score in six consecutive appearances at Old Trafford in the Premier League since Wayne Rooney in 2012.

Brenden Aaronson hit the post from a Leeds free kick, a let- off Manchester United capitalised on as Sancho, back in the squad after a lengthy absence due to physical and mental wellbeing issues, grabbed the equaliser with a calm finish.

Live updates

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Thank you

Thank you for joining Standard Sport’s LIVE coverage of Manchester United’s draw with Leeds.

Find our report and reaction below.

Good night!

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Ten Hag sends exciting Sancho message after key Man United goal

Erik ten Hag hailed the “magnificent” Jadon Sancho after the Manchester United forward scored his first goal since September in Wednesday’s thrilling draw with Leeds.

The England international only recently made his return to the United set-up after training on his own following what ten Hag said to be “physical and mental issues”.

Sancho’s strike won a point for the home side after Marcus Rashford had first pulled one back following Leeds’ quick-fire start in both halves.

Read Ten Hag’s message in full here!

AFP via Getty Images
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Full match report: Sancho steps up to save Man United but worrying signs without Casemiro

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

Jadon Sancho’s first goal since September rescued a point for Manchester United in a thrilling draw with rivals Leeds.

Wilfried Gnonto had put the visitors ahead in less than a minute, catching a United side missing the midfield control of Casemiro and Christian Eriksen cold.

The home side wasted a host of chances to level in the first half, before Leeds looked to have stormed into a match-winning position early in the second period as Raphael Varane put through his own net to double the visitors’ advantage.

Read our full match report here!

Manchester United via Getty Images
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FT: Man United 2-2 Leeds

A thrilling draw at Old Trafford.

Just a reminder, these two teams play again on Sunday!

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FIVE MINUTES ADDED ON!

90 mins: Are we in for a winner?

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All Man United now

83 mins: Dangerous game for Leeds.

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CHANCE FOR MAN UNITED!

79 mins: Varane heads over the bar!

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Brilliant game

73 mins: Both teams still going for it! Surely there’s going to be a winner.

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GOAL! Man United 2-2 Leeds | Jadon Sancho ‘69

69 mins: MAN UNITED LEVEL!

Sancho squeezes one in from close range!



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Martin Bakole will look to enforce shot at Daniel Dubois | ‘He’s possibly the most avoided heavyweight out there’ | Boxing News

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Martin Bakole will look to force a shot at Daniel Dubois and the WBA ‘regular’ title that the London heavyweight holds.

Bakole’s last outing was an impressive, conclusive win over French Olympic champion Tony Yoka from the away corner.

Born in Congo and now based in Scotland, Bakole has only lost once in his 19-bout professional career.

Martin Bakole
Image:
Martin Bakole is willing to take on anyone in the heavyweight division

He is now rated at number two in the WBA’s heavyweight world rankings and has signed to join new promoter BOXXER.

BOXXER’s Ben Shalom told Sky Sports that Bakole intends to enforce a shot at Dubois.

“I think they’re about to order a mandatory for Daniel, Martin wants that title. Martin is top of the tree in the WBA now,” Shalom said.

“With his win against Tony Yoka, he was so impressive to go out and do that in Paris against a former Olympic champion. On the circuit he’s possibly the most avoided heavyweight out there. Delighted to have him. I think he could challenge for world titles very soon.”

Martin Bakole, Billy Nelson
Image:
Martin Bakole with trainer Billy Nelson

Oleksandr Usyk is the WBA’s full world champion, but Dubois holds a secondary or ‘regular’ belt with that sanctioning body.

The Londoner is recovering from an injury he sustained in his last fight, a scare against Kevin Lerena. That though is the fight Bakole is gunning for.

“Martin backs himself in any fight in the heavyweight division. Daniel Dubois is on his list and Billy Nelson [Bakole’s trainer] has been talking about him for a long time and they’re ready to go,” Shalom said.

“It’s definitely that title that we have our eyes on. Obviously Daniel’s injured at the moment. But luckily with Martin he will fight anyone. They could pick any name for him to fight for that title and he would take it.

“So we’ve got a very, very good heavyweight that’s willing to fight anyone. That’s a perfect mix.”



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