5 International Champions Cup Matches to Get Excited About During Pre-Season

With the 2018 World Cup now just a distant memory, thought now return to club football. 

The International Champions Cup first came into being way back in 2013, and is the brainchild of American billionaires Stephen Ross and Matt Higgins. Since its inaugural season, the ICC has grown in importance year on year, offering a valuable blueprint for the season ahead.

These are the matches that should not be missed for the 2018 iteration of the tournament.

1. Manchester City vs Liverpool: 28 July

All four of Manchester City’s fixtures against Liverpool were memorable in their own way. The first brought a 5-0 victory for City, but the next three, two of which were in the Champions League, all brought thumping Liverpool victories.

Klopp and Guardiola are managers always willing to play attacking football even in the tightest of fixtures, but in a pre-season match with the pressure off, this match could be a riot.

It will also be interesting to see how new signings Keita and Fabinho fit into Liverpool’s lineup, while the match may also see former PFA Player of the Year Riyad Mahrez don the light blue of City for the first time. Liverpool fans will a be eager to see what sort of shape Mohamed Salah is in, with recent reports claiming he is back to full fitness.

This one takes place at the MetLife Stadium, New Jersey, at 01:05 am GMT.

2. Manchester United vs Liverpool: 28 July

Liverpool return just two days later, but this time against one of their most historic rivals, Manchester United. 

These matches are always feisty affairs no matter the circumstances. United manager Jose Mourinho will be hoping to send out a signal to the footballing world after an underwhelming 2017/18 season in which the Red Devils failed to win a trophy.

It’s been over two years since Liverpool defeated Manchester United in any competition, so fans of the Reds will be hoping to break that duck, and regain the bragging rights.

What makes this fixture even more tasty is the fact that it will be played at Michigan’s ‘Big House’ Stadium, with the attendance figure expected to be close to 115,000. You can catch this one at 10:05 pm GMT.

3. Barcelona vs Tottenham: 29 July

Tottenham go head-to-head against four time European champions Barcelona at the Rose Bowl in California.

This could be a key test for Tottenham as it will show how close they are to becoming one of Europe’s top sides. Harry Kane will be absent after winning the World Cup Golden Boot, whilst Lionel Messi will be hoping to return to form after a disappointing tournament with his Argentina side.

If Spurs can win this one, then they will be going into the regular season with a huge amount of confidence. This one starts at 4:05 am GMT.

4. PSG vs Atletico Madrid: 30 July

France’s World Cup heroes Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann could return to club action on opposing sides, but given their World Cup excursions it remains to be seen whether they’ll feature.

Mbappe had an astounding World Cup, scoring four goals, with his pace being critical to many of France’s goals. All eyes will be on him to see if he can sustain his international form in the club game after an underwhelming first season for PSG.

Meanwhile, Griezmann returns for Los Rojiblancos after announcing his decision to stay at Atletico Madrid, where he will be joined by new signing Thomas Lemar.

Both Atletico and PSG have been on the cusp of greatness for some time, and this match could indicate which one will achieve it. 

This match takes place in Singapore and starts at 12:35pm GMT.

5. Real Madrid vs Juventus: 4th August

This match centres around one man: Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Following his shock move to Juventus, Ronaldo will play what could be his first match for the Old Lady, against his former employers Real Madrid.

It will not only be interesting to see how Ronaldo fits into Juve’s starting lineup, but also how Real Madrid will adjust to life without their star man.

This match may also feature the likes of Bale, Modric, Higuaín and Dybala, so expect a high quality, exciting affair, between two sides who will be vying for Champions League glory.

This one takes place at FedEx Field, home of NFL side Washington Redskins, and it begins at 11:05pm GMT.


Bizarre Row Erupts on Twitter Over Journalist’s Claim Karim Benzema Met With AC Milan Officials

​​Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has found himself at the centre of a bizarre online argument between his agent and Italian journalist Gianluca Di Marzio.

The row began when Di Marzio ​wrote a piece claiming the France international had a meeting alongside his agent, and a host of ​AC Milan senior figures last week to discuss a potential switch to the San Siro. Benzema’s agent didn’t take kindly to the report, taking to Twitter to make his feelings known on the story.

​​Benzema then weighed in to the action himself, posting on his Instagram story a message that translating as: “Di Marzio, it’s you who will need to change jobs. Liar.” 

The explosive conflict raged on, and Di Marzio hit back with a Tweet of his own, which translates as: “He (Benzema’s agent) can laugh as much as he wants. Maybe he won’t laugh if and when the player changes agent. And when he finds out that Benzema made other intermediaries talk to Milan. And he spoke to Gattuso himself. I don’t laugh..telling you what I’ve verified.”

​​The public spat has added further mystery to the future of Benzema, who could leave the Bernabéu this summer as Los Blancos look to shake up their squad following the departure of former manager Zinedine Zidane. 

AC Milan are rumoured to be in the market for a striker, and could look to the Frenchman as an alternative to ​Chelsea’s Álvaro Morata.

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Meanwhile, Real Madrid may have been handed a boost in their pursuit of Chelsea talisman Eden Hazard, after ​reports emerged that the Blues could look to sign Manchester United ace Anthony Martial as his replacement. 

The French international could cost the Blues around €100m, but this could be affordable given the astronomical fee that Hazard is likely to bring in.


Robert Lewandowski Appears to Rule Out Man Utd Move as He Favours Real Madrid Switch

​Robert Lewandowski does not want to join ​Manchester United and his preferred destination is ​Real Madrid, though he would consider a proposal from Paris Saint-Germain.

That’s according to Polish journalist Tomasz Wlodarczyk, who appeared on the radio show ​Onet Rano to discuss the future of Lewandowski this week.

According to Wlodarczyk, Lewandowski does not want to join Manchester United and has issued a document stating as much. ​There have been rumours of United going in for Lewandowski but no concrete bid.

The Pole is more open to the possibility of joining PSG, and Bayern are anticipating that the French club could make a bid at any time.

However, Real Madrid would be Lewandowski’s dream move and they certainly have the cash to spare following on from the €110m sale of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.

Lewandowski is one of the few strikers in Europe who could come close to replacing Ronaldo’s strike rate at the Santiago Bernabeu. He has scored 151 goals in 195 games since joining Bayern in 2014.

Bayern Muenchen v Eintracht Frankfurt - DFB Cup Final

Some reports had claimed that Madrid were no longer interested after seeing Lewandowski’s poor performances for Poland at the World Cup, but Wlodarczyk dismissed these claims and said that Los Blancos would not be put off by just three matches.

Unlike the Premier League transfer window, which this year closes on 9 August before the start of the new season, the French and Spanish transfer windows remain open to the end of August as usual.

This could therefore be a transfer saga which goes on and on until the window closes.


Spanish Report Claims Cristiano Ronaldo Has Encouraged Juventus to Sign Another Real Madrid Star

​Juventus superstar ​​Cristiano Ronaldo reportedly told his new club to sign Real Madrid full back Marcelo within his first 24 hours at the Italian club. 

The Brazil international has seen speculation over his future increase following Ronaldo’s departure, with the pair known to have grown close after spending nine years as teammates at the Bernabeu. 

UEFA Champions League'Real Madrid v Liverpool FC'

The Portugal international completed a €100m move to Turin earlier this month and according to Spanish outlet, ​Sport, Ronaldo asked Juventus to sign his former Real teammate.

Marcelo fuelled rumours of an exit after ​paying tribute to Ronaldo on Instagram, where he left a comment which definitely raised some eyebrows, as he said: “Soon we’ll be together again.”

However, having only signed a new contract last summer in a deal which runs until 2022, a deal for Marcelo would not prove to be easy.  

The report claims a move for Marcelo from Juventus would require the Serie A giants to part with their own left back, Alex Sandro – who has been heavily linked with a move to Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain. 

The renewed speculation comes after Marcelo made a surprise appearance at Real’s training ground this week to meet with new manager Julen Lopetegui, who replaced Zinedine Zidane earlier this summer. 

Furthermore, FIFA agent, Beppe Accardi, reportedly said of Marcelo: “Marcelo joining Juventus is something I believe could happen.”

The Brazil international has been with ​Real Madrid for 11 years, where he has made a total of 452 appearances for the club, with an impressive return of 33 goals and 86 assists.


Reports Claim AC Milan in Talks With Real Madrid Striker Karim Benzema Over Summer Move

​AC Milan are said to be in talks to sign​ Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema ahead of a move this summer.

Benzema has been with Los Blancos since 2009, making 412 appearances in all competitions, scoring 193 goals. His time at the Bernabeu has been a roaring success for the most part, but his personal achievements have been somewhat overshadowed by those of the other stars with whom he has shared a dressing room.

While Cristiano Ronaldo and Zinedine Zidane were big supporters of Benzema’s contribution to the first team at Real Madrid, both are now gone, potentially paving the way for the Frenchman’s exit.

Real Madrid v Liverpool - UEFA Champions League Final

Now, according to ​Sky Sports Italia, Benzema could be set to depart the Spanish capital after a decade, making a move over to Italy this summer. 

In addition, Italian journalist ​Gianluca Di Marzio has claimed that Benzema’s representatives held a meeting with AC Milan’s manager Gennaro Gattuso and sporting director Massimiliano Mirabelli on Monday to negotiate a potential deal.

AC Milan were recently cleared to compete in the Europa League next season after being previously banned for breaching Financial Fair Play rules. That good news could encourage the Italians to delve into the transfer market once again.

AC Milan v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A

The Rossoneri have reportedly promised to match Benzema’s current salary and have offered a four year contract to keep him at the club until 2022. Real Madrid’s president Florentino Perez will not stand in the way of the transfer should Benzema want to make the move.

Karim Benzema’s agent Karim Djaziri has denied the rumours surrounding the transfer by posting laughing emoji’s in response to the story on Twitter, but Di Marzio has emphasised that the talks did indeed take place whether or not Djaziri chooses to believe it.


Tottenham Braced for Bid From Real Madrid as European Champions Eye £50m-Rated Star

​​Tottenham full back Kieran Trippier is reportedly wanted by a host of top European clubs, including Real Madrid, this summer following his hugely impressive World Cup campaign with England.

The World Cup is a stage upon which any player can change their career. Just look at what happened to James Rodriguez and Keylor Navas back in 2014 for proof. Both players, following impressive tournaments in Brazil, found themselves signing for Madrid that very summer – and the same thing could happen again in the coming weeks.

England v Croatia: Semi Final - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

According to The Sun, Tottenham are preparing themselves for bids north of £50m for Trippier before the transfer window is out – and will do their best to resist as clubs from allover Europe register their interest.

However, the report claims that the player himself is well aware of Madrid’s supposed interest most of all, and an opening bid could arrive any time now.

With that said, a move from the Bernabeu would be heavily unexpected. In addition to already having Dani Carvajal as the club’s first choice right back, Los Blancos have only just spent £31m on Real Sociedad’s Alvaro Odriozola.


While Spurs won’t want to lose Trippier – to any club – it would prove a huge profit being made on the player, who cost the club only £3.5m back in 2015.


Bayern Munich Boss Confirms That James Rodriguez Will Stay at the Club & Not Return to Real Madrid

​Bayern Munich manager Niko Kovac has revealed that star midfielder James Rodriguez will not return to ​Real Madrid prematurely this summer.

Speaking at a recent press conference, Kovac told reporters (per Marca) that James will be staying at the club and that they are in full control over the player’s future


“We have a loan deal which is 100% valid. It will only end if we want to. He’s going to stay here,” he asserted.

It has been suggested that the Colombian playmaker ​wanted to go back to Real Madrid this summer following the departure of Zinedine Zidane, although the ball is in Bayern Munich’s court in this situation.

Senegal v Colombia: Group H - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

James is currently halfway through a two-year loan deal with the ​Bundesliga champions, meaning that Real Madrid would have to negotiate with Bayern if they wanted to bring the 27-year-old back to the Santiago Bernabeu a year earlier than agreed.

It could be an option that Real Madrid are willing to pursue, with James Rodriguez far more likely to suit Julen Lopetegui’s style of play in the Spanish capital. However, it will be difficult to convince Bayern Munich to release the World Cup star from his loan a year early. 

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Furthermore, it’s strongly possible that James could never feature in a Real Madrid shirt again, due to the fact that Bayern have an option to sign him on a permanent basis once his loan deal expires next summer.


Real Madrid Unveil New €45m Signing Vinicius Junior Following Arrival From Flamengo

Real Madrid have officially unveiled Brazilian teenager Vinicius Junior at the Bernabeu following his €45m arrival from Flamengo, a deal that initially agreed and confirmed over a year in advance back in May 2017.

Vinicius was just a 16-year-old at the time, making Real’s €45m investment a huge statement of intent and show of faith in the winger’s talent and potential.

But his age meant that the player was unable to make the switch to Europe to complete the transfer until his 18th birthday, which he celebrated last week.

He has already been training with his new teammates. And, having undergone a successful medical, Vinicius sat alongside Real president Florentino Perez to put pen to paper on his Blancos contract and hold up the club’s iconic shirt bearing his name.

Vinicius, who left Flamengo partway through the ongoing 2018 Brazilian season to move to Spain, is the second unveiling that Real have held this week following the €30m capture of 22-year-old Real Sociedad right-back Alvaro Odriozola.

Both players represent a continuation of Real’s current transfer policy. The club has not made a Galactico-type signing since James Rodriguez in 2014 and has remained committed to buying younger players to develop rather chasing elite superstars.


It was reported earlier this week that even Cristiano Ronaldo leaving for Juventus won’t tempt the club to resort to old ways, potentially derailing rumoured interest in Eden Hazard as Chelsea will not sell for anything other than a Galactico fee.

At €45m, Vinicius is actually the most expensive Real signing since Rodriguez in 2014.


Keylor Navas Determined to Fight for Real Madrid Place Despite Thibaut Courtois Links

​Keylor Navas wants to stay at ​Real Madrid and fight for his place even if Thibaut Courtois arrives from ​Chelsea in the coming weeks.

Courtois has made it clear that he would favour a move to Madrid this summer and reports have claimed that ​he could be closing in on completing that transfer, with his club and country teammate Eden Hazard also strong linked to Real.

Navas would probably be usurped as the club’s first choice goalkeeper, but ​AS claims that he wants to stay at the Santiago Bernabeu and fight for his starting berth until his contract expires in 2020.

The Costa Rican made that claim after winning the Champions League in May, but a lot has changed since then. Zinedine Zidane, who was one of Navas’ biggest fans, resigned as manager and was replaced by Julen Lopetegui.

Zidane defended Navas after his errors nearly cost Madrid in last season’s Champions League quarter finals against Juventus, and his faith was repaid by an excellent performance from the 31-year-old in the semi final win over Bayern Munich.

UEFA Champions League'Real Madrid v Liverpool FC'

Goalkeeping coach Luis Llopis has also left and with Courtois’ arrival seemingly imminent, Navas knows that his time as number one at the Bernabeu may be coming to an end.

If Courtois does complete his return to the Spanish capital, Lopetegui will face the challenge of trying to keep two top-class goalkeepers happy. Navas may become Real’s cup goalkeeper while Courtois takes over for the league games.

Reserve goalkeepers Kiko Casilla and Luca Zidane are likely to leave the European champions, with Ukrainian youngster Andriy Lunin taking over as the third-in-command (or second, if Navas leaves).


Spanish Report Claims PSG No Longer Consider Real Madrid Target Neymar ‘Untransferable’

French side Paris Saint-Germain no longer consider Brazil star Neymar as “untransferable”.

That is according to Mundo Deportivo, who report that the status only belongs to newly crowned World Cup winner and the tournament’s golden boy Kylian Mbappe.


Neymar, who remains an obsession of Real Madrid president Florentino Perez, failed to set the World Cup alight and received more attention for his theatrical antics than his performances.

Mbappe, meanwhile, went on to show that he’s worth every bit of the sum PSG are now due AS Monaco, following his initial season-long loan at the Parc des Princes last term.

While Perez dreams of bringing Neymar to the Santiago Bernabeu, Mundo Deportivo are reporting that new boss Julen Lopetegui isn’t all that fussed over the Brazilian, nor is Jose Angel Sanchez, Madrid’s general manager.

The club recently released a statement denying they’d made an approach for Neymar. But, as Mundo Deportivo would have it, they may have received encouragement as Neymar is no longer considered untouchable at PSG.


New boss Thomas Tuchel and sporting director Antero Henrique are understood to be open to the idea of selling Neymar. And club president Nasser Al-Khelafi, who was the last to come around, has finally taken to the idea of letting the former Barcelona man leave.

It would take a fee in excess of €200m to convince them to sell, however.

Neymar, though, is said to have told friends he’s willing to remain in France with PSG for one more season and will consider his options next summer.