Alexander Zverev can see his rivalry with Dominic Thiem continuing for many years after he came out on top in their latest duel at the Madrid Open.

The German followed up his famous win over home favourite Rafael Nadal by defeating Austria's Thiem 6-3 6-4 in the semi-final on Saturday.

Zverev, who won this event in 2018, will meet either Casper Ruud or Matteo Berrettini in the final.

Thiem had won the last four meetings between the two, including in last year's Australian Open semi-final and the US Open final, where he came from two sets down to win in an incredible fifth-set tie-break.

Zverev said after his victory over Nadal that he would be thinking about that crushing loss in New York prior to his meeting with Thiem.

And he was able to gain a small measure of revenge for those recent grand slam defeats in the Spanish capital.

"We have had some fantastic matches," said Zverev. "We have played the biggest matches in the world. We have played Masters 1000 finals, we have played grand slam finals and [the rivalry] is still developing.

"It is still going to go on for a few more years. Hopefully we will play a few more amazing matches. It feels very [sweet to win], it is a rivalry where he kicks my a** most of the time!

"It is going to mean a lot to me [if I can win the final].

"I am definitely looking forward to playing another big final and I hope I can turn it my way this time."

A solitary break of serve was enough for Zverev to claim the opening set.

He recorded two breaks in the second to go 4-1 up and although Thiem got one strike back, two more holds gave Zverev - who forced 11 break points to his opponent's two - a big victory.

The world number six is yet to drop a set this week but has lost his last three Masters 1000 finals going into his latest attempt on Sunday.

Thiem, meanwhile, has reached the Madrid Open semi-finals in four straight years but it still waiting for his first triumph at the tournament.

Jarryd Hayne has been sentenced to five years and nine months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman.

The former Australia and Fiji rugby league international was found guilty of two counts of sexual intercourse without consent at a retrial at NSW District Court in March after the original trial failed to reach a majority verdict.

Hayne faced a maximum sentence of 14 years in jail when he appeared at Newcastle District Court on Thursday.

The 33-year-old was given an aggregate term of imprisonment of five years and nine months to commence on May 6.

Hayne, who played for Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Titans, as well as having a stint in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers, will be eligible for parole in January 2025.

He had maintained in court that he was not guilty of sexually assaulting the woman at her home in 2018, while claimed he was about to sign a lucrative one-year deal to continue his NRL career before being charged by police in November 2018.

Paris Saint-Germain sporting director Leonardo said while now is not the time to decide what is next for Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, he is "optimistic for the future".

Neymar was unable to lead a comeback on Tuesday as Mbappe watched from the sidelines – PSG beaten 2-0 by Manchester City, who progressed to the Champions League final 4-1 on aggregate.

Last season's runners-up PSG failed to land a single shot on target against City – the first time the French side have failed to do so in a Champions League game since 2003-04.

After falling short of the Istanbul showpiece, attention immediately turned to the futures of star duo Neymar and Mbappe, who are both out of contract in 2022 amid ongoing speculation.

Neymar has previously said "everything is almost settled" in regard to a PSG contract renewal though he continues to be linked with a Barcelona return, while Mbappe has been tipped to join Real Madrid.

"Honestly, now is not the time to decide or announce anything," Leonardo told RMC Sport. "We must be proud of what we have done.

"Our goal is to win. We played better in two out of four halves, we scored weird goals. There are a lot of positive things.

"We got out of very difficult situations during the competition. I'm optimistic for the future."

Riyad Mahrez scored twice for hosts City in Manchester, where PSG star Angel Di Maria was sent off for kicking out at Fernandinho with 21 minutes remaining.

PSG – who will now turn their attention to defending their Ligue 1 crown – were hoping to reach back-to-back finals, but Leonardo added: "We cannot forget what we have done over the past two years. We reached the final and lost 1-0 against a team that won everything. This year, we eliminated Barca and Bayern.

"The objective is always to win. Our form has made us a real candidate to win the Champions League. We must continue. It has been a very complicated year. We must be satisfied."

PSG pair Marco Verratti and Ander Herrera both accused referee Bjorn Kuipers of insulting them on Tuesday.

Verratti and Herrera reacted angrily to the decision to send off Di Maria as PSG became just the third team to receive a red card in both legs of a Champions League semi-final after Deportivo La Coruna-Porto (2003-04) and Lyon-Bayern Munich (2009-10).

"The referee told me 'f*** you' twice," Verratti told RMC Sport post-match. "If I do that, I get a 10-man ban. Of course I talk a lot with the referee, but I never say f*** you."

Herrera added: "We talk about respect with the referees. The referee tonight said f*** off to [PSG midfielder] Leandro Paredes. If we say that, we get a three or four-match ban."

On the incident, Leonardo said: "We talked about that. It's so clear that I don't even comment. It's a shame. I think there were a lot of situations that weren't possible - not being well managed."

Paris Saint-Germain duo Marco Verratti and Ander Herrera both accused referee Bjorn Kuipers of insulting them as the club crashed out of the Champions League in the semi-finals.

PSG's bid to reach back-to-back Champions League finals came to an end at the hands of Manchester City, who won 2-0 on Tuesday to progress to the tournament decider for the first time in their history 4-1 on aggregate.

Riyad Mahrez scored twice for City as PSG ended the second leg with 10 men after Angel Di Maria was red carded for kicking out at Fernandinho in the 69th minute.

Verratti and Herrera reacted angrily to the decision to send off Di Maria in Manchester, where PSG became just the third team to receive a red card in both legs of a Champions League semi-final after Deportivo La Coruna-Porto (2003-04) and Lyon-Bayern Munich (2009-10).

After last season's runners-up PSG were left licking their wounds, star midfielder Verratti and team-mate Herrera hit out at Kuipers.

"The referee told me 'f*** you' twice," Verratti told RMC Sport post-match.

"If I do that, I get a 10-man ban. Of course I talk a lot with the referee, but I never say f*** you."

Herrera added: "We talk about respect with the referees. The referee tonight said f*** to [PSG midfielder] Leandro Paredes.

"If we say that, we get a three or four-match ban."

PSG failed to land a single shot on target against City – the first time the French side have failed to do so in a Champions League game since 2003-04.

"We were the best team for 70 minutes," said Herrera. "We attacked, we created problems for a team that is playing very well.

"We can leave with our heads held high. We are of course sad. It is not easy to do so, to be a semi-finalist. We must not change what we did today. We played well. We did everything. There are always things to improve."

LeBron James' status for the Los Angeles Lakers is unclear ahead of their meeting with the Denver Nuggets after he reinjured his right ankle in Sunday's loss to the Toronto Raptors.

Superstar James was playing for just the second time since missing 20 straight games due to a right ankle sprain, the longest injury absence during his career.

He put up 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists but exited with six minutes and 42 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and did not return to the contest.

James said he has no particular worries over the ankle, but that it is imperative for the team that he is fit and firing ahead of the postseason.

"First half it feels really good, obviously warming up for the game everything is going well," he said.

"The last two games at half-time, at the break, it's gotten a little sore on me, got a little tight, obviously coach decided not to put me back in because of that, that's it.

"I really don't have too much level of concern, but I need to be healthy and make sure my ankle is where it was before my injury.

"I need to be smart with it, talk to my trainer Mike and go over with the coaching staff and some of the players as well, most important thing to me is to be healthy and be at full strength when it really matters.

"It matters now to me because I hate sitting out games and not being out on the floor, but I'm also not helping myself or helping my team when I'm not out there at full strength."

Asked whether it is a case of wait and see for the Denver game, James replied: "That's the plan, the plan is to see how I feel, go from there.

"I definitely want to get healthy, not just for myself but for our team, it's definitely challenging right now, but I'll be fine."

The defending champions are in a lull right now, with the Raptors loss representing a sixth defeat over their previous seven games.

It leaves the Lakers seventh in the Western Conference, a finish that would require them to feature in the play-in tournament to make the playoffs – a concept James clearly has little time for.

"It doesn't matter at the end of the day if I'm not 100 per cent, close to 100 per cent it don't matter where we land," he said.

"That's my mindset, if it happens we end up as sixth, or fifth whatever the case may be, you know the playoff whatever that thing is, whoever came up with that s*** need to be fired, but whatever."

The Lakers have been blighted by injury concerns this season and had starting point guard Dennis Schroder unavailable versus Toronto due to health and safety protocols.

James believes the key to getting the Lakers firing again is having a fully fit roster available.

"Our team is predicated on health, we're a team that we need to be healthy and need to be full, if it's not one thing it's the other," he said.

"Today our starting point guard is not in the line-up, that's the biggest thing down the stretch more than the games we're playing is how healthy we're going to be going into the stretch run."

Pep Guardiola had a simple message for the fans after becoming Barcelona head coach in 2008: "Fasten your seatbelts."

In April 2011, the Catalan press recalled that promise of excitement as they previewed a once-in-a-generation event: four matches between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with three trophies at stake, in 17 days. A Clasico World Series. A defining run of fixtures where winning was everything and losing was unimaginable, with each side dreaming of celebrating a treble and terrified of watching the other do the same.

More like fasten your bandoliers. This was war.

On one side, the Barca of Guardiola, the man taking the coaching world by storm in his first senior post-playing job. A team built from La Masia, boasting some of the academy's greatest ever products: Victor Valdes, Carles Puyol, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi. With the ball on their 'carousel', they were the pinnacle of possession-based attacking play, proof that technical accomplishment could triumph over brute force. They were chasing a second treble in three seasons, and under Guardiola, they had never lost a final.

It could be said Madrid were afraid of this new Barca, and in their fear, they made a deal with the devil. In came Jose Mourinho, the man whose Inter thwarted Barca's attempts to play a Champions League final at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2010. His task was not so much to knock the Catalans off their perch, but to raze the perch to the ground. A league champion in Portugal, England and Italy, the mastermind of Inter's historic treble, with two of history's most expensive signings in Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka at his disposal, Mourinho's task was clear: stop Barca at all costs.

For some, this went beyond the two best teams in the world going head-to-head for trophies. This was a meeting of minds, a clash of styles, a fight for football's very soul. And so, in the spring of 2011, the battle lines were drawn. On April 16, Barca were to host Madrid in La Liga. Four days later, they would meet neutrally at Valencia's Mestalla in the Copa del Rey final. Then came the biggest of all: a two-legged Champions League semi-final for the right to face Manchester United at Wembley.

Seven goals, 167 fouls, 24 yellow cards and four reds later, Barca emerged as Champions League finalists and shoo-ins for the La Liga title. Madrid held the Copa del Rey.

And neither team, nor coach, would ever be quite the same again.

April 16, 2011: Real Madrid 1-1 Barcelona

The opening skirmish.

With Barca leading La Liga by eight points heading into the match, having won 26 and drawn three of their previous 29 top-flight games, few realistically believed a defeat would see them throw away the title. This was more of a warm-up act for what was to come, and the chance for Madrid – and Mourinho – to prove they had learned from the reverse fixture: a 5-0 evisceration at Camp Nou in November.

Certainly, there were changes. Madrid had just 33 per cent of the ball in the first game and that dropped to 24 per cent here, as they completed 234 passes to Barca's 791.

And yet they carried a much greater threat than before: They had more shots than Barca (13-11) and six on target, both the most they managed in any Clasico that term. Even after going a goal and a man down – Messi scoring a penalty after Raul Albiol was sent off for fouling David Villa – they salvaged a point after Ronaldo buried a spot-kick of his own.

Mourinho was starting to make his mark. Madrid committed 22 fouls, with Pepe accounting for five of them. Only Lassana Diarra conceded more free kicks in any of the four matches. There were seven bookings, five of them for Barca, whose frustrations with the Madrid approach were summed up neatly when Messi booted the ball into the stands. Only three players created more than one goalscoring chance: Xavi, Angel Di Maria… and Pepe.

For Mourinho, Albiol's red card was key. Although his side snatched a draw, they seemed at the mercy of the Barca circulation machine: 10 of Guardiola's players managed more than 30 passes, including substitute Seydou Keita, while only Sami Khedira (31) did so for Madrid. Xavi, who made 144 on his own, would average 139 per game across the four encounters.

"Eleven against 10 and it was practically mission impossible," said Mourinho. "Especially against a team that – with possession of the ball – are the best in the world."

The title race was out of Madrid's hands. However, in a one-off contest, things looked different…

 

April 20, 2011: Barcelona 0-1 Real Madrid

"We knew that whoever scored first would win it," said Mourinho. "And so it proved."

Ronaldo's 42nd goal of the season, a towering header from Di Maria's cross, was enough to decide a cup final spanning 120 gruelling minutes in Valencia. It was Ronaldo and Mourinho's first Madrid trophy, Guardiola's first final defeat, and an end to his dreams of a second treble.

It was also a doubling-down by Mourinho on his pervading methods. Madrid allowed Barca 79 per cent of the ball with the Catalans' 901 passes nearly four times as many as their opponents managed. Concrete opportunities, again, were scarce: there were just four shots on target each from a total of 27.

This time, Barca got sucked into the fight. They committed 24 fouls, their most in any Clasico that season, with each side earning three bookings apiece, and Di Maria was sent off in the dying moments. Their more combative approach neither improved Barca's play nor disrupted Madrid further; however, Los Blancos created nine chances in the contest, only one fewer than Barca, despite yielding so much of the possession.

"Life is like that – you can't always win," Guardiola rued. "We can take them on over two games – we've just done that," goaded Mourinho. And the world waited for what would come next.

April 27, 2011: Real Madrid 0-2 Barcelona

The drama started on the eve of the match when Guardiola finally snapped.

His rant at Mourinho, "the f****** boss," was his most public display of anger, his patience exhausted by his opponent's needling. The final straw had been Mourinho describing Pep as a unique coach "that criticises referees when they get decisions right".

In that explosive news conference delivered mostly to "Mourinho's camera", Guardiola promised: "Tomorrow, 8.45 p.m., we will take to the field and we will try to play football as best as possible."

One man certainly did.

Messi had struggled to exert huge influence in the first two games. He had only one shot on target in the cup final, for instance. He was harried, kicked and crowded out at the Santiago Bernabeu this time, and yet won only two free-kicks as Barca committed more fouls than their opponents for the first time. It seemed Mourinho's mind games were paying off.

This, perhaps foreshadowed in the pregame build-up involving their managers, was the most ill-tempered, poisonous game of the lot. There were three red cards shown: one to Barca substitute Jose Pinto, one to Pepe for a foul on Dani Alves, and one to Mourinho for his sarcastic praise of the officials. Again, though, Madrid's 10 men looked capable of salvaging a result, until Messi was unleashed at last. His first was a relative tap-in, a close-range finish from Ibrahim Afellay's cross. It is a goal that is easily forgotten due to what came after. Busquets rolled the ball into his path, and Messi was off – away from Diarra, away from Albiol, beyond Marcelo, before squeezing a low finish past Iker Casillas.

It was his 11th goal in 11 Champions League games, his 52nd of the season, and perhaps the greatest he has ever scored: for the occasion, the speed, the execution, the kicks that failed to stop him.

May 3, 2011: Barcelona 1-1 Real Madrid

Everyone, it seemed, felt the tie was already over. Madrid decided to prioritise chasing Barca players over chasing the game, committing 30 fouls for the return of a single shot on target. At least nobody was sent off.

Gonzalo Higuain thought he had given Madrid the lead, but it was disallowed for a foul by Ronaldo in the build-up. Marcelo cancelled out Pedro's eventual opener, but it was Barca who went through – and Madrid who went apoplectic.

"We feel tricked by the officials," Casillas said afterwards.

"Next year, they might as well give the cup to Barcelona," complained Ronaldo.

Mourinho was facing possible punishment for suggesting referees favoured the Blaugrana, while both teams vowed to make official complaints to UEFA about the other.

The battle was done, the hostilities over (on the pitch, at least). Crucially, though, the events of these matches hardened Mourinho's resolve. "Now I have more willingness to continue in charge of Real Madrid for what this means," he said. "This jersey is white, and white now has more significance."

 

The aftermath

Over those two spectacular weeks, the teams shared two draws and one win apiece. Barca, though, were the victors: a third league title in a row and a second Champions League triumph under Guardiola easily made up for losing the Copa final.

Mourinho, however, would not lose the war.

These games, and the 5-4 two-legged Supercopa de Espana defeat in August – one made infamous by Mourinho poking Barca assistant Tito Vilanova in the eye – showed the Portuguese the way to conquer Spain: disrupt Barca and destroy the rest. His players seemed galvanised, and they proved it.

In 2010-11, Barca finished on 96 points, four ahead of Madrid. Interestingly, they only scored 95 goals to their rivals' 102, while conceding 12 goals fewer. They lost just two games to Madrid's four.

Mourinho's response was to develop Madrid not into a team impossible to beat, but one that could barely stop winning. Records tumbled in 2011-12: 32 victories from 38 games, 121 goals scored, 100 points accrued. His Faustian pact with Madrid had paid off, but those vitriolic two campaigns took their toll. He has had three times as many job changes as league titles in the decade since.

Barca also scored more that season: 114 times in the league overall, 50 of which came from Messi. Overall, though, their exceptional standards had slipped just enough. After three intense seasons under Guardiola and the brutality of El Clasico's rivalry, they just couldn't sustain it any longer. At the end of the season, Guardiola announced he was stepping down, admitting: "Four years is an eternity as Barca coach… I have nothing left."

Harry Kane's future at Tottenham is shrouded in doubt and former England striker Alan Shearer believes it is now or never if he does want to leave.

Kane has never been shy about expressing his desire to win trophies at Tottenham, calling that the "next step" when the club moved to their new stadium from White Hart Lane.

Spurs flirted with that possibility under Mauricio Pochettino, finishing second in the 2016-17 Premier League season and reaching the final of the Champions League two years later.

But under Jose Mourinho they are going backwards, with Spurs seventh in the league and six points adrift of fourth-placed West Ham, meaning Champions League qualification may elude them.

Kane has proven himself as one of Premier League's all-time greatest strikers, with his haul of 162 goals bettered by only seven players, while his 121.8 minutes per goal is the third best among those to have netted at least 100 times.

But recent media speculation has suggested Kane is losing patience, and Shearer – who famously joined Newcastle United over Manchester United in search of trophies and failed to win any – thinks he may not get another opportunity to take his career to the next level.

Writing in his column for The Athletic, Shearer said: "I've got way too much respect for Harry as a player and a man to offer him advice on a decision that I know for myself is rarely linear and that may not, in the end, be his to make. What I would say, though, is this: if he's going to leave, it looks like this summer or not at all.

"Harry is 28 in three months and this is why I think we're approaching a pivotal moment. He's at his peak, the ready-made article, an absolute guarantee of goals wherever he plays and the opposite of a gamble, but a buying club is going to want three or four of his best years in return for what would certainly be an exorbitant transfer fee. This is that time. Twelve months down the line and it becomes that bit more difficult to justify.

"The one indisputable fact is that Harry is under contract at Tottenham for three more years. That six-year deal he signed in June 2018 was a fantastic piece of business by Daniel Levy and his club.

"It tied down their most saleable asset and it gives them a thick layer of protection now. I'm not convinced it was quite so great for Harry, even though the landscape at Spurs was much more positive back then.

"The point is that Harry could no longer say the same things about winning the Premier League [as he did in 2018]. Would the picture change at Spurs if Mourinho went? Maybe.

"As Leicester City and West Ham show, a place in the top four is open to clubs that get things right, but in terms of more than that? Spurs look a long way off. And so that leads back to the same question: is it enough?"

Shearer routinely insists he has no regrets over choosing to join Newcastle instead of going to Old Trafford 1996, despite the Red Devils going on to win the Premier League title in four of the following five years, including their historic 1999 treble that included Champions League success.

For his part, Shearer went on to become Newcastle and the Premier League's record goalscorer, feats he treasures, and Kane appears on course to accomplish similar achievements with Spurs.

But if it is trophies rather than personal accolades that Kane thirsts for, Shearer can see only one option – not that there is ever a guarantee of success, regardless of whether he ends up at United, Manchester City, Real Madrid or Barcelona.

"When I moved to Newcastle for a world-record fee in 1996, I did so with the aim of winning trophies. That was the driver for me, as well as the pull of coming home," he continued.

"It didn't work out like that, of course, but for most of my decade at St James' Park and with lots of ups and downs on the way, we were trying.

"Harry is a big player; he won't accept staying at Spurs for the sake of it. He has to have something to buy into. Right now, winning means leaving.

"None of that means Harry should leave; to repeat, that's not something I would ever say, but if we judge him on his words from two or three years ago, then it's certainly a subject he will be considering now.

"If it ends with no trophies, does that mean hell have had a s*** career? No, of course not. All that said, the great players do not settle. They always want more and they push for it. And Harry is a great player, which is why it feels like he and Spurs are approaching a moment of definition."

LaLiga has found "no evidence" that Cadiz's Juan Cala racially abused Valencia's Mouctar Diakhaby.

Play was halted during the first half of Sunday's clash between the sides following an altercation involving Cala and Diakhaby, after which the Valencia player and his team-mates left the pitch.

Diakhaby did not return for the remainder of the game, which resumed after a 20-minute delay, while Cala was substituted at half-time.

In a video posted on Twitter, Diakhaby said Cala called him "negro de mierda" which translates as "black s***".

Cala maintained his innocence at a subsequent news conference, insisting he had simply told Diakhaby to "leave me in peace".

The Spanish top-flight's governing body released a statement on Friday after concluding its investigation into the incident, which included the use of lip reading experts.

"After the analysis of the material, it is concluded that no evidence has been found... that the player Juan Torres Ruiz (Juan Cala) insulted Mouctar Diakhaby in the terms denounced," it read.

"Specifically, the audiovisual and digital files available have been examined, the audio of the meeting, the images broadcast and what was disseminated on the different social networks have been analysed.

"In order to complement the report, a specialised company has been hired, which has carried out a lip reading analysis of the conversations and a study of the behaviour of the players Juan Torres Ruiz and Mouctar Diakhaby.

"LaLiga has shared these reports with the clubs involved and the relevant authorities, so that they form part of those ongoing investigations.

"LaLiga reiterates its condemnation against racism in all its forms and maintains its commitment to permanently fight against any type of demonstration in this regard, which has materialised in the presentation of numerous complaints of hate crimes, including as a private accusation, in previous proceedings."

The Spanish Football Federation is also looking into the matter.

Former NFL player Phillip Adams has been named as the person who shot dead five people, including a prominent doctor, in South Carolina.

Dr Robert Lesslie (70), his wife Barbara (69) and their grandchildren Adah (9) and Noah Lesslie (5) were pronounced dead at the scene of a home in the Rock Hill area, with an initial emergency call made at 16:44 local time on Wednesday.

Another man - an air-conditioning technician identified as James Lewis who was carrying out work at the house - was found shot dead outside, while another technician was confirmed to have suffered "serious gunshot wounds".

Adams was later found dead in a bedroom at his parents' house, with what was described as a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Reports in the United States said Adams was a former patient of Dr Lesslie. York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson said he had "no indication" that was the case and said that "nothing makes sense to us right now", with a motive yet to be established.

Adams was drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 draft by the San Francisco 49ers after representing South Carolina State as a cornerback at college. He also played for the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks, Oakland Raiders, New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons. In total, Adams made 78 NFL appearances over six seasons.

Sheriff Tolson added: "We are working hard to provide some answers. We want answers. 'Why?' That is a question we are probing as we speak. We hope to be able to get to those answers."

He added that Adams, who lived locally, was swiftly identified as the suspected gunman and that he had "forced entry" to the property.

"Once the investigation began, we were able to develop Phillip Adams as a suspect in this incident," Sheriff Tolson said.

"We feel like we have the individual who is responsible for this and he is deceased. We have not been able to determine that anything was taken from the Lesslies' residence. We did recover evidence at the scene that linked Mr Adams."

Hertha Berlin sacked goalkeeping coach Zsolt Petry following comments he made in an interview regarding immigration and LGBTQ+ people.

Petry, who has spent six years with the Bundesliga club, was quoted as telling Magyar Nemzet that immigration in Europe was causing the "moral degradation" of a "Christian continent".

He also questioned why RB Leipzig and Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi had spoken publicly in support of LGBTQ+ rights, saying that, while entitled to express his views, "the majority of Hungarian society does not agree with Peter Gulacsi's liberal opinion on 'rainbow' families".

Hertha confirmed on Tuesday that Petry had been dismissed with immediate effect. Magyar Nemzet described it as "shocking" that the 54-year-old had been punished for a "political opinion".

"Hertha BSC signed the Diversity Charta for German companies and actively promote values such as diversity and tolerance, because these values are important to us. The remarks made by Zsolt Petry as a club employee in the public eye do not respect these values," the club said in a statement.

CEO Carsten Schmidt said: "Zsolt Petry's work over the years at Hertha BSC has always been greatly appreciated. He was always open, tolerant and prepared to help. He never acted in a homophobic or xenophobic way.

"Even taking into account the finer details regarding the translation of his remarks, and the fact that several of Zsolt's remarks from the interview were left out of the publication without consultation, we ultimately concluded that the remarks on the whole do not comply with Hertha BSC's values. We thank Zsolt Petry for his work with the club and wish him all the best for the future."

Petry stated: "I would like to stress that I am not homophobic or xenophobic. I deeply regret my comments about immigration politics and would like to apologise to all those seeking refuge here who I have insulted. I enjoyed working for Hertha BSC and respect their decision. I wish everyone at the club all the best for the future."

Following the interview, Magyar Nemzet published a brief notice saying Petry had asked them to "express his position in a more nuanced way on certain issues", stressing that he "respects the opinion of Peter Gulacsi to the maximum" and "did not discriminate" against LGBTQ+ families.

Valencia have reiterated their support for their player Mouctar Diakhaby after Cadiz's Juan Cala angrily denied racially abusing the defender.

Play was stopped during the first half of Cadiz's 2-1 LaLiga win over Valencia on Sunday following an altercation between Cala and Diakhaby, after which the latter player and his team-mates left the field.

Valencia returned to resume the game 20 minutes later without Diakhaby, and Cala was substituted at half-time.

Los Che captain Jose Luis Gaya said Diakhaby had been subjected to "a very ugly insult", with the club's president Anil Murthy condemning an "extremely serious racial insult".

In a video posted to his Twitter page on Tuesday, Diakhaby said Cala called him "negro de mierda" which translates as "black s***".

However, at a news conference, during which he repeatedly claimed he was at the centre of a public "lynching", Cala stated he merely told Diakhaby to "leave me in peace".

The 31-year-old former Sevilla, Getafe and Las Palmas centre-back also suggested Diakhaby might have "misheard or has invented something" and decried the episode as "a circus" – all of which prompted an official response from Valencia.

"Valencia CF are deeply saddened by statements made by Cadiz CF player Juan Cala this Tuesday, in which 48 hours later, he denied racially insulting Mouctar Diakhaby during the LaLiga match played last Sunday at the Ramon de Carranza," a club statement read.

The statement was tweeted with a caption of "JUAN CALA, WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU".

Valencia added in their response: "Cala has missed a great opportunity to accept his mistake and apologise to the player affected. Instead of doing this, he attacked both Diakhaby and other members of Valencia CF.

"Valencia CF wish to reiterate that we believe our player and back him completely. After the threats made by Cala in his press conference this Tuesday, April 6, the club, president Anil Murthy and Mouctar Diakhaby himself remain firm in the conviction to fight to the end, wherever necessary, on the matter for the good of football and society.

"Valencia CF will not stop fighting for an improvement in protocol and in the battle against racism in football."

In his video statement on Tuesday, Diakhaby said he felt "very calm" and thanked team-mates and Valencia's backroom staff for their "solidarity and support".

"In Cadiz on Sunday a player insulted me, the words are 'negro de mierda'," he said. “The player said that to me, and that is intolerable. I cannot accept that.

"You have seen all my reactions, that cannot happen in normal life, and above all in football, which is a sport of respect.

"Me and my team-mates decided to go to the dressing room, a good decision. Then a Cadiz player asked a Valencia player that if Cala said sorry would we return to the pitch.

"We said no, things are not like that. When something happens, you cannot just apologise and move on. I feel good today, but it hurt me, a lot. I expect LaLiga will issue punishments, and have proof, so that it can all be clarified."

On Monday, LaLiga president Javier Tebas said his organisation would seek to "clarify" the incident because "we do not want any racism in our football".

However, a day later, Cala's latest intervention appears to have inflamed matters.

"I am in a state of shock, I am being accused of something I know nothing of," Cala said.

"There was a clash between us, and I told him 'leave me in peace'. I don't know what Diakhaby thought he heard, if he misheard or has invented something. I just told him to leave me in peace.

"Things are said on the pitch, I am a centre-half and have been involved in thousands of clashes in games. It is normal, part of football. But I would never, never cross the red line I am being accused of.

"This has all become a circus. I will take legal action against all the people who have tried to play with my honour. My lawyers are compiling the information."

Cala explained he would like to meet Diakhaby and discuss the matter in person.

"I would have no problem sitting down with Diakhaby and I could explain to him that I did not say that," he said.

"I could tell him that there is no racism in Spanish football, between players. Each team has five or six players of colour. I am in favour of supporting the fight against racism, but for me there is no racism between players in Spanish football."

Cala added: "All types of people - Chinese people, African people - have sent me messages of support.

"Nobody in my 15 years of football can accuse me of what I am being accused of now. I have had a hard time; my family, too, have received many threats over social media. But I am relaxed as I am innocent of what I am accused of."

Mikel Arteta said Arsenal's dire display against Liverpool had left him "in shock" after the Gunners surrendered 3-0 at home.

The seething manager attempted to take the blame for the performance, but disdain for the effort of his players was all too clear in the Spaniard's verdict.

Substitute Diogo Jota scored twice and Mohamed Salah also netted as Liverpool ran riot in the final half hour at Emirates Stadium.

Until then, Arsenal had been holding on, while never looking capable of going on to win the game. The home side had three attempts at goal, while Liverpool had 16 efforts on the way to winning by their biggest ever margin in an away league game at Arsenal.

Arteta told Sky Sports: "We completely deserved to lose the game. They were better in every department.

"They deserved to win the game with the margin that they have, or more. It was unacceptable from our side, the way we played.

"They won every duel, every second ball, every challenge. They were brave when they had the ball, they made the right decisions; we didn't.

"It was my fault. I had to set the team to play in a different way and perform in a different way. Congratulations to Liverpool because I think they were exceptional.

"We saw the difference today between the two teams, that when we perform at that level the margin is incredibly high.

"The standard has to be much higher from this football club and my job is to get them to perform at that level. We could not put three passes together. There were too many things that were not done right.

"At the moment I'm in shock. I didn't expect that, with the way the team trained, the way the team tries, but it happened. That is the reality."

Arsenal tackle Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals of the Europa League on Thursday. Arteta knows there must be a major response from his players.

He said: "If you have courage and you have big balls and you represent a club like this, you have to stand up in the next game and take it."

Pep Guardiola has warned Manchester City will not make "any special signings" before next season, which appears to close the door on a big-money move for Erling Haaland.

The City boss refused to directly discuss the in-demand Borussia Dortmund striker, who has been linked with the Premier League leaders as well as the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United.

Catalan broadcaster Esport3 reported Madrid and Barcelona are the teams that Haaland is most interested in joining, although Dortmund would want a huge transfer fee to allow the 20-year-old Norwegian to move on before the 2021-22 campaign.

There have been unconfirmed claims that Haaland has a €75million release clause that comes into effect at the end of next season, but his current market value would be substantially higher.

City will lose Sergio Aguero at the end of this season, having elected to release their record scorer, but he has been so scarcely involved recently that the Argentinian's absence may not be sorely felt.

"I understand completely the situation of the club, and of all the other clubs bar a few. We are not going to do any special signings," Guardiola said in a news conference.

"I'm always honest. If you ask me now, it's not going to happen. All the clubs are struggling a lot and we are not an exception."

The COVID-19 crisis has seen clubs suffer major reductions in their anticipated income, with stadiums staying largely closed over the past year, meaning matchday income has been lost.

Barca and Madrid have also been majorly affected, yet both may find a way to propose a move for Haaland.

Former Barca boss Guardiola could lead City to a spectacular quadruple this season – they face Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday, heading into the weekend with a 14-point lead at the summit. Leicester sit third, a point behind second-placed United.

The continuing success of his City team, who remain in the Champions League and could land a domestic cup double, means Spanish manager Guardiola does not feel inclined to ask the owners to fund a spectacular transfer coup.

City have also been linked with Barca great Lionel Messi, but Guardiola's tone suggests that may be another non-starter.

Although Messi might be available on a free transfer, his wages far outstrip those of any Premier League player. Such a move would involve jaw-dropping figures.

"You know my opinion – we never spend big money on one player," Guardiola said. "We have spent a lot of money on a lot of players, but none of them for incredible figures, and that is what we will continue to do in the coming years."

Asked directly about Haaland, and whether he accepted the striker would not be with City next season, Guardiola said: "You understand that I cannot talk about players from other clubs.

"It will not be polite for Borussia Dortmund or for Haaland. It is not my business. The players I have here deserve respect from their manager not to talk about other players when we have two important months ahead.

"If I was a player and the manager was talking about other players, I'd say 'what the f*** are you doing?'. We are here to do what we have to do. In five years here I have not talked about a player from another club."

Guardiola said releasing Aguero at the end of his contract "was the best decision for the club", albeit that meant there had to be a "difficult" conversation.

The City boss added: "He will help us until the end of the season."

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant has apologised after an argument with actor and comedian Michael Rapaport in which he used homophobic language was made public.

Rapaport posted screenshots of a private conversation on his Twitter account earlier this week.

"I receive threats and disgusting messages DAILY, but never in my wildest dreams did I think @KDTrey5 would be among them," he wrote.

"The [snake] himself is now threatening me, bringing up my wife and wants to fight. This is supposed to be America's sweetheart right?"

The dispute appeared to begin when Rapaport called Durant "super sensitive" following a post-game interview on TNT in December.

The pictures showed Durant respond with homophobic language and threats towards the True Romance and Deep Blue Sea star.

Rapaport also addressed the 2014 NBA MVP's comments on his podcast, saying: "That's not locker-room talk, we're not s***-talking.

"That's not how people talk, you're threatening me. You've done it three times."

An apologetic Durant said: "I'm sorry that people [have] seen the language that I used.

"That's not really what I want people to see and hear from me, but hopefully I can move past it and get back out on the floor."

Durant has been out of action with a hamstring injury since February 13, although the Nets have claimed first place in the East in his absence.

The 32-year-old forward missed the entirety of last season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in the 2018-19 NBA Finals while playing for the Golden State Warriors.

He returned to average 29.0 points across 19 outings this year, leading Brooklyn in scoring, before his latest setback gave new signing James Harden the reins.

Harden, also now missing with a hamstring issue, has put together an MVP run, aided by Kyrie Irving.

Of his season, Durant said: "I was playing solid before I got injured and feel like we were just starting to figure each other out, James, Kyrie and myself, and different line-ups out there on the floor.

"I felt like we were starting to gain our rhythm and, even though I was out a week before that with [COVID-19] protocols, I felt like our team was gaining more chemistry then and that's moreso what I care about.

"How I play, I'll figure that out over time whenever I get out there."

Reports suggest Durant is nearing a return, but the player added he had to be "smart and cautious with this type of injury".

"I've been through this situation before so I just try to take myself back to that place," Durant said.

Mino Raiola claims Alex Ferguson did not "believe" in Paul Pogba during his first stint at Manchester United and says he does not "give a f***" whether he deals with the club again. 

Pogba left United for Serie A powerhouse Juventus in 2012 – a year before Ferguson stood down as United manager – after his contract expired, only to re-join the Red Devils in 2016 for what was then a world record transfer fee of £89million.

The France midfielder's future has been the subject of much discussion since Raiola claimed his client's time at United was "over" in December, prompting speculation of a possible return to Juve or a move to LaLiga champions Real Madrid.

Pogba's contract is set to expire in 2022, although United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently said an "open dialogue" about a new deal for the 28-year-old is ongoing.

Ferguson, who enjoyed a trophy-laden 26-year reign at Old Trafford, has publicly criticised Raiola for his role in Pogba's departure, but the agent insists he wanted the World Cup winner to stay at the club. 

"When Ferguson criticised me, that was my biggest compliment anybody could give me," Raiola told The Athletic. "Ferguson is used to people coming in and [saying]: 'Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir'.

"All I have to say that when Ferguson left Manchester United the club's owner [the Glazers], by buying back Paul Pogba, told me that I was right. Because I didn't want to take Paul Pogba away. [Ferguson] didn't believe in Paul Pogba.

"So when Ferguson says: 'I don't like him', it's the biggest compliment that I could have. It's like saying Sepp Blatter says: 'I don't like him'. Fantastic. I don't care what Ferguson says."

Never shy of expressing an opinion, Raiola was typically forthright when asked how the Pogba situation has affected his relationship with United.

"I don’t give a f*** if I never do another player with Manchester United. I'm not in their hands," he added.

"I'm independent. We have only one party that we take care of: our players. And as long as our players like us, you do what you have to do."

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