WINNERS: BARCELONAThe summer window could not have gone much better for Barcelona, who successfully hijacked two transfers, as well as persuading Everton to take on most of their dead wood.While Inter should probably bear most of the blame for Arturo Vidal rocking up at Camp Nou given the way the Nerazzurri got distracted by the enticing prospect of signing Luka Modric from Real Madrid, the way in which Barcelona stole Malcom away from Roma undeniably killed off the Blaugrana’s ‘Mes que un club’ image once and for all. Article continues below Editors’ Picks Man Utd ready to spend big on Sancho and Haaland in January Who is Marcus Thuram? Lilian’s son who is top of the Bundesliga with Borussia Monchengladbach Brazil, beware! Messi and Argentina out for revenge after Copa controversy Best player in MLS? Zlatan wasn’t even the best player in LA! Still, Ernesto Valverde will not mind. Malcom’s arrival has added further depth to Barca’s attacking department, while at the same time seemingly sparking Ousmane Dembele into life, while the veteran Vidal adds steel and experience to a midfield that will also benefit enormously from Arthur Melo’s finesse.Clement Lenglet has also arrived to strengthen the centre of defence and his €36 million (£32m/$42m) transfer was almost completely covered by the remarkable sale of Yerry Mina to Everton for a €30m (£27m/$35m), a staggering fee for a player who struggled horribly after arriving in Catalunya in January for just €12m (£11m/$14m).The Toffees also handed over €20m (£18m/$23m) for reserve left-back Lucas Digne, and €2.25m to take the confidence-sapped Andre Gomes on loan for a season.Sevilla stumped up an additional €8.5m (£8m/$10m) for Aleix Vidal, while Sassuolo paid an initial €6m (£5m/$7m) for Marlon, making this an incredibly lucrative summer for Barca, who needed to balance their books ahead of the commencement of the redevelopment of Camp Nou next year.Paco Alcacer’s departure for Dortmund leaves Barca without an obvious Luis Suarez understudy but, all in all, this is a deeper and better-balanced squad than the one that recorded a double last season.WINNERS: SERIE ALike millions of Serie A followers, Christian Vieri could not contain his excitement when it emerged that Cristiano Ronaldo was actually on the verge of joining Juventus. “For Italian football, this would be like winning the lottery,” the former Inter striker enthused.Certainly, the financial benefits of Ronaldo’s arrival have, and are, already being felt, both in Turin and beyond. Juve’s shirt sales and share price have both sky-rocketed, while broadcasters across the globe have subsequently acquired the TV rights for Serie A just to see how the Portuguese performs.Perhaps even more significantly, CR7’s bold decision to ditch Madrid for Juve has even capture the imagination of the game’s greatest players. “I think Cristiano Ronaldo will change Italian football,” Neymar prophesised. “It will once again be the Italian football I watched as a child.”Serie A still has some way to go before it reclaims its status as the pinnacle of the footballing world, of course, but, as Fabio Capello pointed out, the league has undeniably been presented with an unexpected opportunity to relaunch itself.”TV rights and merchandising allowed England, Germany and Spain to overtake us, but with Cristiano Ronaldo we can try to lift our heads again,” the former AC Milan coach argued. “Certainly, Ronaldo alone is not enough. We need to have the strength and intelligence to exploit this Ronaldo stimulus to give a boost back to our football.”But Ronaldo’s arrival means that people are speaking about the Italian league again.”And that is a pretty fine start.WINNERS: LIVERPOOLWhen Liverpool broke the transfer record for a goalkeeper in July, just six months after breaking the transfer record for a defender, Jurgen Klopp was mocked in some circles over his previous comments on rivals essentially trying to buy success: “Do I have to do it differently to that? Actually, I want to do it differently. I would even do it differently if I could spend that money.”So, why then, did he sanction the acquisitions of Alisson and Virgil van Dijk for £56m ($73m) and £75m ($97m), respectively? For the same reason that he also paid a grand total of £57m (£74m) for Naby Keita, who also arrived this year – because Liverpool were short in quality in three key areas.And, as Klopp explained, “Quality costs a specific price.” And nobody is querying the size of those transfer fees now, with Liverpool having made a 100 per cent winning start to the 2018-19 season, and without conceding a single goal to sit top of the Premier League.The Reds finished fourth last season and reached the final of the Champions League with a top-heavy squad overly reliant on the brilliance of attacking trio Mohamed Salah, Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane but with Alisson, Keita, Fabinho and Xherdan Shaqiri (who should allow Klopp to rotate his front three with greater regularity) now on board, they look a far more balanced outfit.Whether Liverpool will end up as champions of England remains to be seen but they are undoubtedly one of the winners of this summer’s transfer market. LOSERS: REAL MADRIDWhen Real Madrid fans saw Cristiano Ronaldo follow Zinedine Zidane out of the Santiago Bernabeu, they fully expected club president Florentino Perez to replace the Portuguese superstar with a marquee name. Thibaut Courtois has arrived from Chelsea but the Belgian hardly represents a significant upgrade on Keylor Navas, just named UEFA’s goalkeeper of the year and still in possession of a starting spot under new coach Julen Lopetegui, while Mateo Kovacic was allowed to move in the other direction.Luckily, Luka Modric was prevented from absconding to Inter but the wait went on for Perez’s late Galactico. But not one of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Eden Hazard or Harry Kane arrived in the Spanish capital.Instead, Real will begin their bid for a fourth successive Champions League with Mariano Diaz as their new No.7, the same Mariano Diaz that the Blancos had sold to Lyon a year ago for just €8m (£7m/$9m). Granted, the 25-year-old enjoyed a fine season in Ligue 1, netting 18 times in 34 appearances, but he was not the signing that the Real supporters wanted to see their side make before the close of the summer transfer window.In truth, Perez didn’t even want Mariano, at least not initially, according to Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas: “Mariano said to me that he wished to go to Madrid and that is why he rejected the Sevilla offer. “I informed Florentino Perez but his response was that Mariano was not the player they were in the market for, before making the offer.”Real’s decision to hijack the move to Sevilla by enacting their buy-back clause, thus, smacks of desperation but it will do little to appease the fans, whose dissatisfaction with the club’s transfer dealings was one of the reasons why only 48,000 of them turned up for the Liga opener against Getafe – Real’s worst gate since their final fixture before Ronaldo’s arrival.His departure has now left a gaping void that has not yet been filled. Yes, there are reasons for optimism – Marco Asensio is an exceptional talent, while Gareth Bale is enjoying a sustained run of excellence and, more importantly, games – but Madrid’s squad is undoubtedly weaker than it was last season.The UEFA Super Cup has already been lost. One wonders if Madrid’s previously irresistible financial might is on the wane too.LOSER: JOSE MOURINHOIt was amusing to hear Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho demanding greater respect from reporters after Monday night’s 3-0 loss at home to Tottenham, given he has never had the courtesy to afford rivals or referees any throughout his coaching career.However, the Portuguese’s increasingly petulant and often downright bizarre behaviour is no laughing matter at Old Trafford, where chaos and confusion reigns, on and off the field.The reason for Mourinho’s discontent is, of course, Ed Woodward’s refusal to sign a centre-half during the summer transfer window and he certainly has grounds for complaint if United’s executive vice-chairman did indeed counter by claiming that there were no centre-halves out there better than United’s current crop of calamities. Indeed, Mourinho’s team selection for the shambolic showing against Spurs – deploying midfielder Ander Herrera on the right-hand side of a previously untested back three – appeared like a pointed message to the board: “Look what I’ve had to resort to!” However, the inconvenient truth for Mourinho is that he had nobody but himself to blame for the shambolic showing against Spurs, with the hapless Herrara ultimately exposed in an unfamiliar position. It cannot be forgotten either that it was Mourinho who pushed for the arrivals of Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof, both of whom had been dropped after their dismal displays at Brighton the previous weekend.In essence, he has stripped innumerable players of confidence with his repeated and rash chopping and changing.That his side’s defensive frailties were brutally exploited by Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham team only cast Mourinho’s moaning in a more unfavourable light, given the Argentine’s squad hadn’t been strengthened by a single summer signing.It has been suggested that Woodward has unwittingly given Mourinho a way to explain his failure at Old Trafford, should he be eventually dismissed. But the fact of the matter is that the summer window, and indeed this whole affair, has merely exposed Mourinho’s inability to get the best out of the players he has at his disposal, and his reliance on ready-made solutions to solve problems he himself has created.LOSER: JOAO MARIOWhen several members of Portugal’s Sporting CP contingent terminated their contracts with the club this summer, Inter’s Joao Mario was quick to publicly advise them against even considering a switch to Serie A.The midfielder’s stance was hardly surprising. Joao Mario has endured a torrid spell at San Siro; so difficult, in fact, that he was even willing to join West Ham on loan for the second half of last season.Things didn’t go much better for him in London, however, and a permanent move never materialised.It was still expected that Inter would be able to find a buyer for a man who represented the Seleccao at the 2018 World Cup and Seville looked like the most likely destination until Betis decided to pursue Giovani Lo Celso instead.As a result, Joao Mario is still stuck at Inter, where he has been repeatedly booed by his own club’s supporters, and where he has yet to see a minute of Serie A game time so far this season.Indeed, it’s likely his only run-outs will come in the Coppa Italia, as the €40m (£36m/$46m) man is certain to be left out of Luciano Spalletti’s Champions League squad because Inter are only allowed to register 22 players for this season’s competition after falling foul of Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.All in all, it’s going to be another miserable season in Serie A for Joao Mario.
Former England batsman Ian Bell believes the Eoin Morgan-led side, who are the first team to enter the semi-finals of the ongoing Champions Trophy after their thumping win over New Zealand, are yet to play their best in the competition.”The exciting thing about this England team is that it hasn’t played its best game yet. That’s still to come. And the best teams save their best games for when they really matter,” Bell wrote in his column for the International Cricket Council.Strong bowling performances from pacers Liam Plunkett and Jake Ball helped England register an emphatic 87-run victory over the Black Caps in their second Group A match of the Champions Trophy at Sophia Gardens in Cardiff on Tuesday.Chasing a target of 311, the Black Caps were bundled out for 223 runs in just 44.3 overs. None of the Kiwi batters, expect skipper Kane Williamson, could stay long at the crease.For England, Plunkett was pick of the bowlers as he finished with figures of 4-55 besides Man-of-the-Match Ball who gave away just 31 runs in the eight overs he bowled and picked up two wickets.Spinner Adil Rashid, who came into the side as Chris Woakes’ replacement also came out with a good bowling performance and picked up two crucial wickets apart from drying the runs for the New Zealand batters.”Jake Ball gave England the best possible start with that early power play wicket, doing his job perfectly, and was given Player of the Match for some terrific bowling, but my pick of the bowlers was Liam Plunkett again,” said Bell.advertisement”Another four-wicket haul to his name will give him massive confidence and so it should. He’s playing fantastically. On a personal note, I’m over the moon for him. Since he’s been back in this team he’s shown everyone just what ability he has.””He’s been around the set-up for so long and I’m thrilled to see him producing the goods. Liam is a wicket-taker, pure and simple. And that’s exactly what you need in 50-over cricket. It’s not about preventing runs anymore, it’s about going out on the attack and making things happen. He does that,” he added.Earlier, put into bat, the Eoin Morgan-led side posted a decent total of 310, courtesy some blistering half centuries from Alex Hales (56), Joe Root (64) and Jos Buttler (61). All-rounder Ben Stokes also played a useful hand of 48 to help his side cross the 300 mark.”As a former England opener, I know just how much pressure Jason Roy will be under and all I can do is reiterate what I said before. I really hope England do what Eoin Morgan says they’ll do and back their man. He deserves to be given time to get his game back to where we all know it can be. And with the team winning, it’s the perfect opportunity to,” said Bell.The former England opener termed England’s Tuesday’s win as complete team win.”In many ways England’s 87-run victory was a complete team win, with the batsmen all largely contributing and all of our bowlers sharing the wickets.I don’t think it’s unfair of me to say a margin of victory like that can be considered a bit of a hammering and England will take massive confidence by booking itself a place in the 14 June semi-final in Cardiff after just two games.””It wasn’t flashy, we didn’t see a lot of the explosive hitting which has made this team so popular over the last couple of years, but what we did see was a real collective effort to contribute to what ultimately was a very, very impressive victory,” he added.England play their last group match against Australia, which would be a do-or-die match for the Steve Smith-led side, on June 10.
ATHENS (AP) — Competitors at the Spartathlon ultra-marathon in Greece have been forced to contend with a storm buffeting Greece since before dawn on Saturday.The winner, Japan’s Yoshihiko Ishikawa, finished the 245.3 kilometer (152.4-mile) race in 22 hours, 54 minutes, 40 seconds. He was more than 42 minutes ahead of the Czech Republic’s Radek Brunner.Ishikawa, who set off from under the Acropolis at 7 a.m. local time Friday, finished early Saturday morning amid heavy rain, which had started shortly after 3 a.m.Since then conditions have only worsened, according to race spokesman Pantelis Tzertzevelis.By 3:50 p.m. local time (1250 GMT), 85 of the 387 runners had finished. About 115 more were still in the race, trying to make the cutoff time of 36 hours, which expires at 7 p.m.—By DEMETRIS NELLAS , Associated PressTweetPinShare0 Shares