Friday Kickoff: Ronaldinho leads Atletico Mineiro to victory; Spanish league opens match-fixing investigation; and more

RonaldinhoCelebratesvsSaoPaulo (TerraBrazil)

By DAN KARELL

In a match between two of Brazil’s heavyweight’s in the Copa Libertadores Round of 16, it was the road side who came out on top.

Top seeded Atletico Mineiro came back from a goal down to defeat Sao Paulo, 2-1, in their first-leg match on Thursday night. Jadson scored the opener in the ninth minute off a feed from former Santos wonderkid Ganso before former World Player of the Year Ronaldinho equalized for Mineiro in the 42nd minute on a header from a corner kick.

Diego Tardelli, formerly of Sao Paulo, came up big in the 59th minute to score the winner against his old club. Tardelli ran onto a through ball in the box from teammate Marco Rocha and sent a low blast past Sao Paulo goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni. The match was the third meeting between the sides this season after playing in Group 3 of the second stage of the competition. Mineiro won the first meeting before Sao Paulo won the second one on the final match day.

Also in Copa Libertadores action on Thursday night, Ecuadorian club Emelec defeated Brazil’s Fluminense at home, 2-1, as Fernando Gaibor scored a game-winning penalty kick goal in the 87th minute.

Here are some more stories to get your Friday started:

LA LIGA INVESTIGATED FOR MATCH FIXING

Spain’s national football federation (LFP) has opened up an investigation into match-fixing at a recent game.

On April 13, Deportivo La Coruña defeated Levante, 4-0, an unlikely outcome considering that Levante played in the Europa League this season and Deportivo have been struggling to avoid relegation.

After the match one of the Levante players, Javier Barkero, was quoted saying that he believed some of his teammates didn’t try during the match, leading to speculation over whether they threw the match to help gamblers line their pockets. The LFP has taken the suspicions seriously and has started an investigation.

Levante has said that they will co-operate with the LFP during the investigation.

REAL MADRID SET TO OFFLOAD STARS

Before Real Madrid buys their next set of “Galacticos”, they’re going to have to unload a few first.

According to reports out of Spain, Real Madrid is preparing to sell defenders Pepe and Fabio Coentrao, midfielders Kaka and Angel Di Maria, and forward Gonzalo Higuain in order to raise at least €100 million for future signings.

Di Maria and Higuain have been reported previously for moves to French club Paris Saint-Germain recently, as well as the latter being rumored to be a major target for Italian side Juventus. Kaka has been nearly sold in the last two transfer windows but his wages have hurt any chances for another club to sign him. During the most recent winter transfer window, the former World Player of the Year nearly moved to former club AC Milan before the talks fell through.

WENGER HINTS AT FURTHER ARSENAL STAY

It doesn’t look like Arsene Wenger is ready to leave London after all.

Despite reports this week out of England claiming that the Arsenal manager was very close to a move to Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1, Wenger responded on Friday to say that he wouldn’t leave until 2014 at the earliest, and could potentially stay past that point as well if offered a new contract.

“I respect my contracts,” Wenger told The Guardian during his press conference on Friday. “I want to stay [on past 2014] if I do well and if I consider or the club considers that I do well, that is all. I want this club to do well, that is my basic feeling.”

Wenger has endured his toughest season in his 17 years in charge of Arsenal, his team having dropped earlier in the season to 10th place in the league and going out of the domestic cup competitions to lower league opposition. However, the London side is on a great run of form, and are currently in a good position to finish in the top four of the league and earn a Champions League place for next season.

It’s thought that this summer Wenger will be given a large amount of money from the board to spend in the transfer market to bring in reinforcements.

QUICK KICKS

Stuttgart are close to signing A-League star and New Zealand international Marco Rojas. (REPORT)

Juventus are putting the finishing touches on the signing of Mattheus Oliviera, the 18-year-old son of Brazilian World Cup hero Bebeto. (REPORT)

Nine years ago, Bayern Munich loaned Borussia Dortmund €2 million when the club was in a financial crisis. (REPORT)

Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini admitted that winger Scott Sinclair will likely be on his way of the club this summer after making just two starts in 14 appearances in all competitions since a move from Swansea City. (REPORT)

Tottenham won’t be signing Zenit St.Petersburg forward Hulk this summer, according to Andre Villas-Boas. (REPORT)

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What do you make of these reports? Do you see Atletico Mineiro winning the second-leg back home? Are you worried about match-fixing in Spain? Do you see Real Madrid selling all five of those players? Do you see Wenger staying at Arsenal past 2014?

Share your thoughts below.

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28 Responses to Friday Kickoff: Ronaldinho leads Atletico Mineiro to victory; Spanish league opens match-fixing investigation; and more

  1. FSegaud says:

    The Bebeto son story makes me feel really old.

    • Ja Ja James says:

      Although I was sitting behind the Dutch net, I remember Bebeto’s “cradle” celebration. I remember how lucky I was to see this match live. Age is just a number, at least that is what I keep telling myself.

  2. Dainja says:

    Look, ya’ll know I love to laugh at funny photos on this site, but that is an AMAZING pic right there. Looks like a movie poster.

  3. Old School says:

    That’s an amazing picture. I logged in just to say what Dainja said above me.

    Wow.

  4. Old School says:

    “Nine years ago, Bayern Munich loaned Borussia Dortmund €2 million when the club was in a financial crisis.”

    9 years later, to ensure no financial crisis occurred again, they exchanged £31.5m for a player.

  5. Travis says:

    Spurs were never going to pony up the money it would take to get Hulk from Zenit, media making stories from nowhere per usual

  6. 44 says:

    Tottenham can’t afford HULK.

    and poor Sinclair. Average PL player and somehow he thought he could start at Man City. Gotta be the wages

    • Old School says:

      Well, in fairness to him, he probably got a huge increase in wages that he’ll take to his next club where he’ll receive more playing time.

      If that’s the case, advantage Sinclair.

    • ChrisTheLSUTiger says:

      I could have told Sinclair that this move was bad for his career. Not sure why he couldn’t see it himself, but I guess the green blinded him.

      • Old School says:

        Aren’t we all?

        Unless you’re working in the NPO field, anyone that says otherwise (or at least doesn’t acknowledge it influences decisions) are simply lying.

  7. bryan says:

    madrid would be crazy to let di maria go. all the others make sense to me.

    • Old School says:

      I agree.

      Although, this team has no chemistry and for a collection of stars, are extremely boring to watch.

      • bryan says:

        yeah, but they do show flashes here and there. and i feel like when they do, di maria is usually a part of it. it’ll be interesting to see who they bring in. bale is obviously the main target, but we really need a better RB.

        • Old School says:

          Good points.

          Especially when you’re referencing Bale, that would be the only reason to ship Di Maria out. I agree that Di Maria is normally one of their more electric performers, though.

          • bryan says:

            yeah, with bale, ronaldo, and di maria, one would end up sitting. and we know ronaldo isn’t

          • biff says:

            The story linked to that item implies that Bale is a done deal and will be at Real Madrid: “Di María looks to be an ‘in demand’ player over this summer’s transfer window. Bale’s arrival means the Argentine will have limited chances at Real…”

      • bryan says:

        personally, i would like to see madrid use their buyback clauses and get canales and carvajal back. instead of spending 20 million euro on verratti, they could get canales back for 18 million. carvajal would only be 6.5 million this summer or 7 million in the following summer.

    • ed - houston says:

      what does not make sense is that the coach has no input on these decision. if murhino is on his way out the incoming coach has to make do with whatever quad he has.

  8. RPH says:

    “Wonderkid”? Do we say that in English? Wunderkind I would understand.

  9. el paso tx mike says:

    only if MLS could sign all those international good freaking players. ronaldinho please come to MLS.

  10. Good Jeremy says:

    Are they including the recent Bayern Munich-Barcelona series in the match-fixing investigation? or can we admit that the Barcelona/Spain style isn’t perfect and has a lot of chinks in the armor, even when ran with the best players and coaches?

  11. RK says:

    There could be something to Levante — they were challenging for a CL spot most of the year, and I’m surprised to see them in 13th now. I guess they can blame the Sounders.

  12. chuck says:

    Letting Higuain go makes no sense. The guy scores and scores and has given Real Madrid tons of wins by himself and has sent to the bench whoever they buy to replace him.

    Talk about disrespect.