Gareth Bale was tempted by a move to Cardiff City but the offer tabled by Los Angeles FC proved "too attractive to turn down", according to Bluebirds owner Vincent Tan.

Wales international Bale confirmed in a video posted on social media on Sunday that he will join MLS side LAFC when his Real Madrid contract expires later this week.

The 32-year-old had also been linked with Madrid-based Getafe, which he categorically ruled out, as well as former side Tottenham and hometown club Cardiff among others.

Bale is reported to have held talks with Cardiff boss Steve Morison during a recent trip to the club's training base, which they share with the Wales national side.

Cardiff owner Tan has confirmed the Welsh side were in for the forward, but they were unable to match the terms offered by LAFC – even if money was not the decisive factor.

"We were very, very keen and of course it would have been a big coup for us and would have been great for Gareth Bale to play for his hometown," Tan told talkSPORT.

"We tried our very best, but we failed. Everybody would be happy if Gareth Bale returned home and played in Cardiff, but unfortunately the offer was too attractive to turn down.

"He actually originally wanted to come, money wasn't the matter. We still tried to come up with a good offer for him.

"But finally we had to compete when there is a lot of big American advertisers. The commercial deals there were very good, the commercial deal was very good for Gareth Bale."

 

Bale is to join LAFC on a year-long contract using targeted allocation money, taking him through until the World Cup, where Wales will compete after a 64-year absence.

The Southampton academy product reportedly has the option to stay on for the 2023 season, but Tan has not ruled out a switch to Cardiff next year to see out his career.

"His contract is for 12 months. We will see what happens. Maybe in 12 months Gareth will want to come back and come home, serve Cardiff, his hometown," Tan said.

"He has never played in Cardiff, a club he and his family are fans of. Hopefully in 12 months, he's still young, he will come back at 35 and some play until they are 40 years old.

"He's still got a few years and hopefully he will come and play for Cardiff. It wasn’t really about the money. Gareth wanted to help Cardiff and help Wales. 

"It wasn't really the money – that's why we could negotiate with him. He tried his best, but I think the offer from LAFC is too big to turn down."

Bale's signing boosts an LAFC side who already lead the Supporters' Shield race and have also secured Giorgio Chiellini ahead of the MLS transfer window opening next month.

The pair could therefore make their debuts in El Trafico against rivals LA Galaxy on July 8.

Vincent Kompany's reign as Burnley manager will start with a difficult test on the road against Huddersfield Town.

The Championship fixtures for the 2022-23 season were released on Thursday and Kompany's first game with the Clarets, who were relegated from the Premier League last season, comes against defeated play-off finalists Huddersfield.

Burnley's relegation from the top-flight was confirmed on the final day of the season after defeat at home to Newcastle United to bring an end to a six-year spell in the Premier League, with Leeds United surviving following victory at Brentford.

Huddersfield, meanwhile, saw off Luton Town in the Championship play-off semi-finals but lost to Nottingham Forest at Wembley, denying them a return to the Premier League for the first time since the 2018-19 season.

Elsewhere, Watford's first game back in the Championship following relegation comes at home to Sheffield United, while Norwich City are on the road against Cardiff City.

Sunderland, after a four-year stint in League One, mark their return to the second tier against Coventry City, while League One champions Wigan Athletic face Preston North End.

The new season begins on July 29 with Huddersfield's hosting of Burnley and marks the start of a challenging campaign for the 24 teams in the division, who face disruption due to the World Cup in Qatar midway through the season.

 

Gareth Bale has suggested the standard of football he competes at in the build-up to the World Cup does not make "too much of a difference", amid continued speculation over a move to Cardiff City.

The Wales international will end a nine-year spell with Real Madrid and become a free agent at the end of June when his contract expires.

Bale, who helped Wales to their first World Cup qualification since 1958, has been linked with a host of clubs across Europe and the United States.

Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman is said to have flown to the United Kingdom to start discussions with the 32-year-old, attempting to bring the forward back to his hometown club.

Wales coach Rob Page declared a deal with Cardiff would "tick all the right boxes", while the veteran attacker's agent Jonathan Barnett revealed his next move will not be driven by money.

Bale, speaking on Monday before a Nations League clash with the Netherlands, refused to rule out a move to the Championship side as he outlined his plans to discuss his next career move with Page.

"It's something I guess I need to sit down and go through," Bale told reporters at a pre-match news conference.

"Not just with my family, but with the manager here [Page], with the physios here that we use, to see what would give me the best chance of being fit come November and December.

"I don't really know if the standard makes too much of a difference. A football game is a football game.

"I feel like I'll never really lose my quality on the ball. I guess it's a conversation to be had.

"I need time to think what's the best move for me, my family, my kids, and hopefully we'll sort that over the summer. I have options."

 

Bale won 16 trophies during his time with Madrid but rarely featured in the 2021-22 campaign, in which Los Blancos lifted the La Liga title and the Champions League.

He played in seven of Madrid's 56 matches in all competitions – 13 per cent – with just four of those being starts.

But Bale was still on hand to help Wales to the World Cup in Qatar, their 64-year wait the longest gap between qualification for world football's showpiece tournament.

While Bale's deflected free-kick off the head of Andriy Yarmolenko was enough to secure play-off success over Ukraine, he knows he still has to build his fitness.

"Ideally I would have had more games coming in [to camp] so I would have been even fitter and not had to recover as much as I am at the moment," he added.

"I've been available for quite a lot of the games in Spain. Sometimes you just don't get picked so people assume that you're injured.

"[he next step] is going to be massively important. I need to make sure I'm playing games and I'm as fit as possible.

"Sometimes I'm able to get away with it, but ideally I want to go into a World Cup playing games and being as fit for as long as I can on the pitch."

Gareth Bale returning to Cardiff to play for his hometown club "ticks all the boxes" according to Wales boss Robert Page.

Bale's contract at Real Madrid will expire at the end of this season, with only two games remaining for Los Blancos – Friday's home game against Real Betis to end the LaLiga season, before next Saturday's Champions League final with Liverpool.

While speculation around a potential retirement should Wales fail to qualify for the World Cup persists, he would likely need to find a new club in the event they progress past Scotland or Ukraine in June's playoff.

In response to rumours of a move to Cardiff for Bale, Page asserted that is simply feels right but respects his captain's right to make his own decisions after the playoff.

"It ticks all the boxes," he said. "Ultimately, it's Gareth's decision and Cardiff City's.

"I think he's right to say 'Let's throw full focus on to the fifth [of June]. Let's get there first and have that discussion.

"We can carry on talking about it and guess, have our opinion, and it does make sense. It makes a lot of sense. He can base himself at a training ground he's familiar with."

Bale has made a solitary appearance in LaLiga since February, coming on as a substitute late in the second half of Real Madrid's win over Getafe in April.

He has been sidelined with back problems since, with Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti even revealing it immobilised him at times.

The 32-year-old was named in Wales' 27-man squad for the June window, which includes four Nations League games, but could join camp if he is not named in Madrid's Champions League final squad.

"We will keep in touch with him," Page said. "It's common sense that if he is not going to feature at all, and Real Madrid are happy with releasing him, then of course we would like him on camp.

“They don’t have to. We don’t have the players [officially] until the 30th, so we can’t pull rank on that.

“We just have to go with what they suggest. Rightly so because he’s employed by the club, but if there’s an opportunity to get players in earlier then we would like that.”

After a cardiac episode at Euro 2020, there were questions about whether Christian Eriksen would ever be able to play football again, let alone at the highest level.

But less than a year after being released from his contract at Inter, the Denmark international is a hot commodity once again.

Since signing with Brentford on a six-month deal, Eriksen has displayed the quality that saw him net 69 goals over six and a half seasons for Tottenham, and now Premier League teams are circling.

 

TOP STORY – NEWCASTLE WANT ERIKSEN AS FLAGSHIP SIGNING

Tottenham have been linked with Eriksen in a potential reunion in the upcoming transfer window, but they are reportedly going to have to contend with Newcastle United, who wish to make him a "flagship" signing, per the Northern Echo.

Being out of contract, Eriksen will have his pick of potential suitors, yet Newcastle will likely have deep enough pockets to contend with anyone serious about adding the midfielder.

Since his return from the bench against Newcastle, Brentford have won all four Premier League matches in which Eriksen has played 90 minutes, including a 4-1 away win at Chelsea, where he scored.

 

ROUND-UP

– Football Insider is reporting Mohamed Salah is close to signing an extension with Liverpool that will pay him £400,000 per week.

West Ham have entered the race for Bayer Leverkusen winger Moussa Diaby, per Calciomercato.

– 90min is reporting Edinson Cavani may be Manchester United's "secret weapon" in their quest to sign fellow Uruguay striker Darwin Nunez from Benfica in the upcoming transfer window.

Cardiff City and Tottenham are joint-favourites to land the services of Wales international Gareth Bale when his contract with Real Madrid expires in June, per Wales Online.

– According to the Chronicle, both Arsenal and Newcastle are heavily linked with Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta, who is expected to fetch a price of around £58million.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was happy with the cameo from new signing Luis Diaz after the Reds beat Cardiff City 3-1 at Anfield in the FA Cup fourth round.

Second-half goals from Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Harvey Elliott secured Liverpool's passage to the fifth round, where they will play Norwich City at home.

Diaz arrived in the game as a 58th-minute substitute and had a hand in a goal just 10 minutes later as he won the ball from Perry Ng, before some neat dribbling allowed him to pull it back – via a flick off Jota – towards Minamino to score Liverpool's second.

Klopp was impressed with the Colombian's impact and also assuaged fears that Diaz picked up an injury after the former Porto man looked in pain when Cardiff defender Aden Flint accidentally landed on his knee.

"He's good, thank god," Klopp confirmed. "The goal he set up for Taki [Minamino] was incredible. High press, I love it!

"He goes down, holds his knee. He is bruised on his knee. It's red. 'Welcome to England!' He has his first assist and first scar. I don't think it'll be serious."

Diaz completed 19 of his 20 passes on his Liverpool debut, and successfully executed all 11 of passes made in the opposition half.

The Reds boss also had words of praise for Elliott, whose 76th-minute strike at the Kop end was his first goal for the senior team and arrived in his first game back after five months out with a dislocated ankle.

The 18-year-old suffered the injury in the 3-0 win at Leeds United in September, but his manager said he handled the setback admirably.

"He's a kid, yes. On the pitch not so much," Klopp added. "He was buzzing. He was waiting for this moment. We were all waiting but the fact we could do it today was so nice.

"I was in a worse mood than he was after the injury. He was like, 'Come on boss, head up. I'll be back!'"

Harvey Elliott scored on his return to action as Liverpool eventually overcame Cardiff City at Anfield on Sunday to head through to the fifth round of the FA Cup.

The Reds were made to work hard by the Championship side but second-half goals from Diogo Jota, Takumi Minamino and Elliott saw them run out 3-1 winners, the second assisted by debutant Luis Diaz.

Steve Morison's Bluebirds spent the majority of the game defending but were well organised and frustrated Liverpool for large periods, and Rubin Colwill grabbed a consolation goal to delight the travelling Welsh fans.

The fifth-round draw was made before the game and Jurgen Klopp's side will host Norwich City next up.

Cardiff started brightly but it was Liverpool who should have been ahead early on after a clever turn from Jota ended with the Portugal international firing straight at Dillon Phillips.

The Premier League side struggled to break down a stubborn visiting defence and had to wait until the 34th minute for their next big chance as a nice move down the left ended with Minamino finding Curtis Jones, who hit his effort high into the Anfield Road End.

Liverpool were finally ahead in the 53rd minute as a Trent Alexander-Arnold free-kick was expertly glanced past Phillips' dive to his right by Jota.

There were big cheers again shortly after as Elliott and Diaz were brought off the bench by Klopp, and the Colombia international played a big role in Liverpool's second as he dispossessed Perry Ng before pulling the ball back for Minamino to fire home.

Elliott joined in the action as he fired a shot in at the Kop end after an Andy Robertson cross fell to him, before Colwill pulled one back with an equally impressive finish with 10 minutes to go.

What does it mean? Reds still in the hunt for four trophies

The fourth round of the FA Cup has not been kind to Klopp since his arrival in England.

In their six previous campaigns under the German, Liverpool have been eliminated at this stage on four occasions – more than any other side in the competition in this time.

However, they march on after a win here and remain as one of only two Premier League sides, along with Chelsea, who can still win at least four trophies this season.

Who needs Salah and Mane?

Liverpool had 82 per cent of possession in the first half but failed to carve out many meaningful chances.

The pressure told early in the second half, though, and this now makes it five wins out of six in all competitions since star duo Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane left for the Africa Cup of Nations.

Bluebirds must now sing in the league

Morison can be pleased with the effort of his team at Anfield, especially considering he made eight changes to the team that beat Barnsley last time out.

However, now their FA Cup journey is over they must find a way to show the same determination in the Championship, where they sit in 20th spot, nine points ahead of Peterborough United in the relegation zone but having played a game more.

What’s next?

Liverpool host Leicester City in the Premier League on Thursday while Cardiff are at home to Peterborough in the Championship on Wednesday.

Joe Gomez and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain will miss Liverpool's FA Cup fourth-round tie with Cardiff City on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19.

The Merseyside club confirmed ahead of the game at Anfield that the players tested positive "recently" but both have already completed the required isolation period and are able to resume training.

However, neither have had enough time to prepare for the clash with the Championship side.

New signing Luis Diaz does make the squad and starts on the bench for Jurgen Klopp's men, along with the returning Harvey Elliott.

It is a particular blow to Gomez, who was expected to feature having only made 12 appearances this season, eight of which have come from the bench after recovering from a tendon injury in his left knee suffered in November 2020 that ruled him out for the remainder of the 2020-21 campaign.

Oxlade-Chamberlain has enjoyed a run in the side on the right of Liverpool's attack while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane have been away on Africa Cup of Nations duty, scoring in wins against Brentford and Crystal Palace. Takumi Minamino replaces the former Arsenal man.

Diaz makes the bench after completing a move to the Reds from Porto last week, while Elliott returns to the squad for the first time since dislocating his ankle in the win against Leeds United in September.

Sporting events in Wales will be played behind closed doors from Boxing Day as the government tries to control the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. 

With the coronavirus infection rate in the country at just under 550 cases per 100,000 people and rising, the government opted for an open-ended ban on crowds beginning with the festive season. 

Earlier on Monday, Cardiff City's scheduled Boxing Day game against Coventry City in the Championship was postponed, the second consecutive Bluebirds game called off due to coronavirus cases among the squad and staff. 

Several other fixtures across multiple sports also have been called off amid COVID-19 concerns. 

Amid that environment, Wales economy minister Vaughan Gething announced the new restrictions late on Monday. 

"Sporting events over the Christmas period are one of the big highlights of the year," Gething said in a release. "Unfortunately, the new Omicron variant is a significant development in the pandemic and could cause a large number of infections.

"We need to do everything we can to protect people’s health and control the spread of this awful virus.

"Throughout the pandemic we have followed scientific and public health advice to keep people safe. The advice is clear – we need to act now in response to the threat of Omicron. We are giving people as much notice of these decisions as we can.

"Crowds will come back as soon as possible. We want everyone to be here to enjoy their favourite sports."

In addition to league competition, the new restrictions likely will affect FA Cup play. Swansea City are set to host Southampton in a third-round tie on January 8, with Cardiff City to host Preston North End the following day. 

 

 

 

David Henderson, the organiser of the flight responsible for the deaths of Emiliano Sala and David Ibbotson, has been sentenced to 18 months' imprisonment.

Henderson, 67, was last month found guilty of endangering the safety of an aircraft.

Sala was on his way to Cardiff City on January 21, 2019, after signing from Ligue 1 club Nantes for £15million (€20m) when his plane came down over the English Channel, killing the striker, 28, and the pilot, Ibbotson, 59.

The court was previously told Henderson arranged the flight with football agent William McKay and asked Mr Ibbotson to fly the plane as he was in Paris on holiday.

Mr Ibbotson – who did not hold a commercial pilot's licence – was not qualified to fly at night and his rating to fly the single-engine Piper Malibu had expired.

A jury of seven men and five women were told that moments after finding out about the incident, Henderson contacted numerous people to ask them to stay silent, saying it would "open a can of worms".

The jury took seven and a half hours to come to a verdict before Henderson was convicted at Cardiff Crown Court, where he returned on Friday to be sentenced.

Henderson was given 18 months for endangering the safety of an aircraft, along with a three-month sentence to be served concurrently for attempting to discharge a passenger.

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