Abu Dhabi complete deal for Bernabeu naming rights

Sport360 staff 20:36 11/10/2016
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Florentino Perez announced the news.

The project, less ambitious than the previous version blocked by the courts, includes the creation of a 6,000m2 public garden alongside the stadium, will be financed by Abu Dhabi-based sponsor IPIC, who will be given naming rights.

“It will be a spectacular transformation of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium, which is one of the icons of our city and which we want to make one of the best stadiums in the world,” said club president Florentino Perez during a press conference at the Town Hall.

Perez added that investment company IPIC will pay for the refurbishment, due to begin next year, in its entirety in return for the stadium carrying the company’s name, although it will still also carry the name Bernabeu.

The new stadium will be furnished with a retractable roof without losing any of the 81,000-seat capacity.

The agreement comes around a year after the Spanish courts blocked an original 2014 project plan, which included the enlarging of the stadium plot onto public land in order to build a hotel and shopping centre.

The shopping centre will now be included within the existing stadium while the hotel is no more than a “possibility”, according to Perez.

The original stadium was inaugurated in 1947 before being renamed in 1955 after iconic former president Santiago Bernabeu, who died in 1978.

It has already undergone several makeovers since the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

Real’s great domestic rivals Barcelona have also announced plans to remodel their Camp Nou ground.

That too will cost 400 million euros and will include a retractable roof while also increasing the capacity from 99,000 to 105,000.

Real’s cross-city rivals Atletico Madrid will for their part move to a new 73,000-seat stadium in the summer of 2017, leaving behind the 55,000-capacity Vicente Calderon stadium, which is set to be demolished and turned into a park.

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INTERVIEW: Medjani on Liverpool, Leganes & why Gerrard stands out

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Carl Medjani

Gerard Houllier’s six-year tenure at Liverpool is widely regarded to be a successful one, with the Frenchman winning six trophies in his time at Anfield. However, one of Houllier’s major shortcomings was his inability to bring through a talented crop of foreign imports into the first-team.

The likes of Anthony Le Tallec and Florent Sinama Pongolle famously failed to earn a regular spot in the senior side despite arriving at the club to big billing. Another of Houllier’s young recruits was Carl Medjani, a French-born Algerian defender who turned heads early on in his career.

Having impressed in Saint-Etienne’s youth ranks, he attracted interest from some of the biggest clubs in Europe – including Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Arsenal. But there was only one offer that really spoke to Medjani, and that led the 18-year-old to the red half of Merseyside in 2003.

“At that time, the club was on the top. Gerard Houllier was the manager and he was playing a lot of French players so for me, it was better to have a good education. I was very confident in Houllier’s project,” Medjani recalls to Sport360.

Currently plying his trade in La Liga with Leganes, Medjani is now 31 and a seasoned professional. But he credits his time at Anfield – surrounded by some of the biggest names in the game – for giving him a solid foundation.

“I was young, only 18, and I was training with the first team. I was playing in the reserve team. I was training everyday with Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Jerzy Dudek, Emile Heskey. So for me it was great and I learnt a lot. It was then easier for me to adapt to the professional level.”

Medjani was unfazed by his illustrious company at the time and it is an attitude that has long marked him out as a leader on the pitch. He impressed in the Under-20 Toulon tournaments and even captained a French side that included Yohan Cabaye to the 2006 title.

carl-medjani

It is little surprise then that he has quickly become one of the key figures in the Leganes squad, despite only joining the Primera Division new boys in the summer.

“These things have always been inside me. Since I was a kid I could be a captain or a leader. The most important thing is to be a leader on the pitch. I hope my team-mates see this. The captain at Leganes is Martin Mantovani but they know that I can help them if they need it.”

This season isn’t the centre-back’s first foray into La Liga. He was at Levante for the second-half of last season, experiencing the pain of relegation. As such, Medjani feels more equipped to face this season’s challenges and hopes to pass on any advice he can to his team-mates.

“For me, it was a great experience because Levante gave me a chance to play in La Liga. I’m still playing in Liga today because the club gave me a chance. I came to the club when the team was in last position at the end of January. I think we played better in the second half of the season.

“I learnt a lot because it was my first four months in Spain and I think I can say now to my friends in Leganes if we’re in this position, what level we have to play at. The objective is to still be in La Liga at the end of May.”

Leganes have defied expectations so far in 2016-17, winning three of their first seven fixtures and drawing one.

Currently 11th in the table, Leganes are only three points adrift of fourth-placed Barcelona, who dished out a 5-1 beating when the two sides crossed paths at Estadio Municipal de Butarque last month.

Nevertheless, Medjani insists that the heavy defeat only served as a learning experience for his side.

“We had a good start to the season and to lose 5-1 to Barcelona is not a shame. They are one of the best teams in the world.

“The most important thing from that game is to learn and to get experience for the next steps. It’s always great to play against the best players in the world. Even though we lost the game, we showed a good image of our club and our team.”

Medjani has rubbed shoulders with some great players over the course of his career but it’s a former Liverpool skipper whom he holds in the highest regard.

“When I was playing for Liverpool, Steven Gerrard made a big impression on me. I loved Gerrard as a person and as a player. He was my favourite player with Zinedine Zidane. Now, I’ve been playing in Liga, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the best I’ve played against.”

Another player who made an impression on him at Anfield, but for different reasons altogether, was the eccentric El-Hadji Diouf. Medjani named the former Senegalese international as the biggest joker he’s ever come across in football, choosing not to go into detail over the forward’s dressing room shenanigans.

“No one compares with him. He was very cheeky!”

Leganes’ form in their very first season in Spain’s top flight is no joke though. They’re proving to be a side that needs to be taken seriously and Medjani is determined to keep it that way.

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La Liga: Tweets, bleats & Ter Stegen’s howler

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La Liga this week

In a week marked by public-figure indiscretions, with England’s Sam Allardyce taking pole position in the rankings and Rangers’ Joey Barton not far behind, I was discussing with a friend over pre-Sunday-lunch tapas just why footballers are incapable of writing on social media without messing up. Admittedly, the concision required to say something safe, snappy and insightful in 140 characters is both a linguistic and cognitive challenge, but the dangers inherent to a system that allows sudden thoughts to be broadcast at the click of a button are pretty obvious.

All clubs, right down to semi-pro level, have social media policies written into players’ contracts, but they’re rarely read in any detail. Some players, like Gerard Pique, learn to tone it down but others just can’t seem to resist the chance to have their little say. Maybe this has something to do with the stifling world of modern professional football, in which all comments are carefully mediated, most press-conferences cliché strewn and bland, and top players spin-doctored into using the correct neutral discourse – at least when the mic is thrust under their dripping post-match noses.

If a player or coach wishes to criticise, they can only do it implicitly, hinting at what they might mean, but couching it in such terms that legally protect them and which conform to the requirements of their contracts. Small wonder then that people who shoot from the hip are becoming ever-more popular – the reason why Barton’s autobiography is keenly anticipated, and why certain global political figures are doing rather better than anyone imagined they might. And of course, social media outlets allow players a megaphone, whether they’re supposed to use it or not. Legally speaking, no club can ban players from using social media, only advise them on how to use it. Nevertheless, plenty of players still seem unable to zip up.

Take Real Madrid’s Danilo for example. After Real’s midweek 2-2 draw in Dortmund, he tweeted that Eibar, Sunday’s visitors to the Bernabéu, would “pagar los platos rotos”, literally “pay for the broken plates”, which in sporting terms is meant to suggest that the losers on the previous day will come out fighting harder the next. Which is fine in theory – but Danilo’s comment showed a typical lack of footballer forethought.

Eibar’s down to earth and rather more sensible coach José Luis Mendilibar, born and raised before the digital age and visitor to the Bernabéu nine times in his managerial career (with five different clubs) had never managed even a point there. Eibar themselves had never even scored at the Bernabéu in their history, but Danilo obviously hadn’t noticed that they had managed to score in all their previous league games this season so far. Real Madrid had too, but you kind of expect that. Mendilibar chose to ignore Danilo, whose comment showed not only scant respect for his professional counterparts but also a lack of insight into the game itself. He also motivated Eibar further, if such were necessary. To the delight of neutrals everywhere, Fran Rico’s excellent header after a mere five minutes broke Eibar’s Bernabéu duck, and condemned the hosts to a fourth consecutive draw – not too worrying for most clubs, but in Madrid a crisis of bubonic proportions.

Eibar were excellent in all departments (Madrid were missing Casemiro and Luka Modric, with Ramos ‘rested’) but curiously left elegant midfielder Jota Peleteiro at home. Jota was not picked for the previous win at home to Real Sociedad either, and took to Twitter himself on Saturday (when the squad became public) to state in Spanish that, “The great thing about life is that in the end, time puts everyone in their place.” Some fatal ambiguity there, but the rumours are that Mendilibar doesn’t like Jota’s semi-glamorous lifestyle, partner to a semi-famous model who allegedly wants to go back to London. You can imagine it’s true, good though Jota is. Stay off the tweets boy. You know it makes sense.

Celta de Vigo are a team that have also had some problems with player indiscretions in the past, but fortunately no-one was tempted to post a pre-match tweet suggesting that they would once again score four goals against the visitors, Barcelona. Last year’s game, around this time of the season (late September) saw Celta welcome Luis Enrique back with a 4-1 thumping, but at least this time Barcelona did rather better by managing three goals themselves.

The problem resided in the fact that at no point did Barcelona ever lead the game, largely a victim of their own defensive frailty. With Sergio Busquets looking a bit ponderous these days, Marc-Andre ter Stegen desperately trying to prove that he is Claudio Bravo’s equal with his feet, Lionel Messi still missing and Andres Iniesta on the bench, Celta were 3-0 up at half-time and cruising, although they hadn’t needed to do a great deal to be in that position. With Iniesta on for the second half, and the score restored to 3-2 largely through Gerard Piqué’s efforts, a famous comeback looked on the cards until Ter Stegen committed a bizarre error for Celta’s fourth. He really won’t enjoy the replays, particularly given that his team had Celta on the ropes at that point. Commentator Michael Robinson memorably remarked that “Ter Stegen thinks he’s Garrincha. He’s not.” Piqué got another one back for 4-3, but it wasn’t to be.

Now Atlético Madrid lead La Liga on goal difference from Real Madrid, with Barcelona skulking in fourth place behind Sevilla, who scraped 2-1 past a plucky Alavés, with a last-minute goal from the interesting Wissam Ben Yedder, helping the Sevilla fans to forget Kevin Gameiro. He also scored a late goal for Atlético in their 2-0 win at Valencia – a more awkward game than it looked, given the home side’s improvement of late.

And what a fine sight La Liga’s table looks at the moment, with this rare and welcome outbreak of democracy. Three points separate the top six sides, which is an unusual state of affairs indeed. The Spanish media seems to view this as a crisis, but for everyone else it looks pretty healthy. Neither Barcelona nor Madrid seem able to currently overcome the disruption caused by injuries to key players, and the improving upper-middle classes are taking advantage.

Atlético still look the most solid outfit on show, with the only fissure in their side their inability to score from penalties. It remains Antoine Griezmann’s Achilles heel, but apart from that he’s looking every week like he’s the new member of the world’s top three. Throughout the side, Atlético are strong – on an individual and collective basis. Every season it looks like they might be in decline, but it doesn’t happen. Once again they’ve got the meanest defence (only two conceded) and in midweek they looked superior to Bayern Munich in every department, but particularly in their overall organisation. Early season form can flatter and deceive, it’s true, but they look kind of scary. And the occasional indiscretion from Griezmann aside, they tend to avoid social media gaffes. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Diego Simeone.

Next weekend sees another La Liga break for the 2018 qualifiers, with Spain facing an interesting trip to Italy on Thursday and then a further game in Albania next Sunday. Spain’s new coach Julen Lopetegui will be hoping that the recent ‘crises’ at the national team’s main two suppliers doesn’t carry over to the international scene. We shall see.

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