Muchas grassias! Real Madrid granted €225m loan for underground greenhouse

By Sports Desk December 08, 2021

Real Madrid have taken out an additional loan of €225million for a new phase of remodelling work at the Santiago Bernabeu that will see an underground greenhouse installed.

Los Blancos initially confirmed plans for the €525m renovation four years ago, with the work set to increase capacity by 4,000 to roughly 85,000 and include the incorporation of a retractable roof and pitch.

Construction work began in 2020 during the hiatus ushered in amid the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, with Madrid subsequently playing their home matches at Estadio Alfredo Di Stefano – the club's training base – when the 2020-21 season resumed.

Madrid eventually returned to the Santiago Bernabeu in September this year but much of the remodelling is yet to be completed, with the club now confirming an extra phase has been added.

The subterranean greenhouse will ensure their playing surface remains pristine even when it is retracted.

Providing details of the loan and its use, a club statement read: "Real Madrid signed the extension of the financing of the works not initially included in the Santiago Bernabeu stadium remodelling project through a new loan for a total amount of €225million, with a term of 27 years and a fixed interest rate of 1.53 per cent.

"These conditions are the best ever obtained for long-term financing in the sport industry. The loan also includes a grace period for the repayment of the principal, so that Real Madrid will not start repaying the loan until 30 July 2024.

"The funding will be used for the construction of a large underground greenhouse which was not foreseen in the initial work due to its complexity and which was technologically resolved at a later date.

"This greenhouse will allow the automatic removal of the pitch and its preservation in optimal conditions and in perfect shape to be used when a football match is to be held. In this way, the number of events that can be held without impacting the grass will be maximised."

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  • Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele? Liverpool, PSG... Newcastle? Where next for Barcelona outcast Dembele?

    Ousmane Dembele's Barcelona career appears to be drawing to a close, with the club's director of football Mateu Alemany confirming on Thursday that he is up for sale.

    Dembele's representatives have been in talks with Barca since July over a new contract for a player that arrived at Camp Nou in 2017 in the wake of Neymar's departure to Paris Saint-Germain.

    Barca splashed the cash – €105million, to be exact – to bring the winger in from Borussia Dortmund, where he had enjoyed a wonderful campaign in 2016-17 after a move from Rennes.

    Despite Xavi wanting to keep the player, an agreement between the club and Dembele's camp has not been reached and the stand-off has now resulted in Alemany publicly stating the France international will no longer play for Barca now he has turned down their latest offer.

     

    Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Barca due to injuries and some reported attitude issues, albeit he has hardly been at Camp Nou during the most stable period.

    He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes, but he has played in just 52 per cent of Barca's LaLiga matches in that time.

    Barca's plan is to move Dembele on now but, with his contract up at the end of the season, potential suitors may wish to bide their time and sign the attacker on a free transfer.

    Stats Perform explores some possible destinations.

    Liverpool

    Could a move to Anfield be on the cards for Dembele? He has often been linked with Liverpool in the past, and Jurgen Klopp's direct approach could well suit a player that performed so well in the Bundesliga – a competition renowned for aggressive pressing and counter-attacks, which the Reds have down to a tee in the Premier League.

    There is the small matter, of course, of Mohamed Salah. Arguably the best player in the world at the moment, the Egypt star plays predominantly from the right, in Dembele's preferred position. However, there is uncertainty over Salah's future, with a new contract not yet agreed. His deal runs out in 2023 and Dembele could present an ideal rotation option and eventual successor. Klopp would surely back himself to get the best out of the 24-year-old.

     

    PSG

    A team reported to hold a firm interest is Ligue 1 giants PSG. It would be ironic should Dembele – the man signed by Barca to replace Neymar – ended up playing alongside the Brazil star in Paris.

    PSG already, of course, have a star-studded attack. But with Kylian Mbappe expected to leave at the end of the season and Lionel Messi, Neymar and Angel Di Maria not getting any younger, Dembele could provide a relatively cost-effective replacement, and a return to France might reignite his career.

    Bayern Munich

    Or could a move back to the Bundesliga be the trick for Dembele? Bayern Munich have plenty of top-quality wing options, with Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane and Kingsley Coman, who has just signed a new long-term deal, complimented by youngster Jamal Musiala. Yet in all competitions this season, Dembele has created 2.4 chances per 90 minutes played, and that is better than any of Bayern's current wingers other than Sane (2.6).

    His 6.7 dribbles attempted per 90 ranks behind only Musiala (7.8) and he leads the way in shots (4.5). Most important, perhaps, is Dembele's tendency to cross. He has delivered 6.7 open-play crosses per 90 in 2021-22, exactly two more than Bayern's best wide player in this metric (Coman - 4.7), something that Robert Lewandowski would surely relish.

    Borussia Dortmund

    This may seem an unlikely move, but what about heading back to Dortmund? Dembele was a superstar at Signal Iduna Park in his first spell there, although fans did not take kindly to his wish to leave, and that may well mean this would not get off the ground.

    But, putting any negative emotions to one side, Dortmund have a vibrant attack under Marco Rose, though are likely to lose Erling Haaland in the close-season. While Dembele's wages might be an issue right now, should he remain at Barca for the rest of the season, could Dortmund use funds generated from a possible Haaland sale to bring back a player who played a direct hand in 30 goals (10 goals, 20 assists) and created 100 chances across all competitions in 2016-17.

     

    Juventus

    Another elite club that could provide a new lease of life for Dembele is Juve. The Serie A giants are not involved in the title race this season, at least according to their coach Massimiliano Allegri, though he will know the Bianconeri nevertheless must challenge for silverware in Europe or in the Coppa Italia. 

    Dembele could provide the spark that is missing in Juve's attack, especially with Federico Chiesa expected to miss at least six months with a serious knee injury, while Dejan Kulusevski has been rumoured to be on the transfer list.

    Newcastle United

    One of these clubs is not like the others but, given their new-found wealth – and, perhaps, the need to make a real statement signing – maybe it would be foolish to discount Newcastle.

    Whether Dembele would fancy swapping Barcelona for the north east of England and a Premier League relegation battle in January is of course up for debate, though what would not be up for debate is Newcastle, with their Saudi Arabia-backed ownership, having the funds to pull such a signing off.

    Dembele would represent a step up in quality and would surely be an instant fans' favourite at St James' Park and alongside Allan Saint-Maximin on the other flank, provide some added star power to help Newcastle survive and, possibly, thrive in future seasons.

  • Dembele told to leave Barcelona 'immediately' after turning down latest contract offer Dembele told to leave Barcelona 'immediately' after turning down latest contract offer

    Barcelona director of football Mateu Alemany has informed Ousmane Dembele to "leave the club immediately" after repeatedly turning down the offer of a new contract.

    The Catalan giants have been in talks with the France international since July over extending his existing deal, which runs out at the end of this season.

    Dembele has struggled to establish himself as a key player at Camp Nou since joining from Borussia Dortmund in 2017 for an initial €105million due to persistent injury setbacks.

    Barca head coach Xavi recently insisted Dembele could become the "best in the world" in his position as he underlined his desire for the forward to agree fresh terms.

    However, the 24-year-old's agent Moussa Sissoko this week told RMC Sport that he would not bow to "pressure" from Barca over his client's future. 

    Sissoko also accused the club of making "threats of no longer playing in the side" rather than engaging in productive talks with Dembele.

    That led to Xavi issuing an ultimatum on Wednesday when telling the former Dortmund attacker to either agree to the offer on the table or be sold in the January window.

    And after he was left out of Barcelona's squad for Thursday's Copa del Rey last-16 tie with Athletic Bilbao, Alemany revealed time has now run out for Dembele.

    "With Ousmane and his agents we started conversations around the month of July," Alemany told Barca TV.

    "In all this time, almost seven months, we have talked, Barca has made different offers, we have tried to find a way for the player to continue with us.

    "Those offers have been continuously rejected by his agents. It seems obvious that the player does not want to continue at Barcelona and is not committed to our future project.

    "We told him and his agents that he must leave the club immediately because we want to have players committed to the project.

    "We expect a transfer to take place before January 31. The sporting consequence is that we don't want to have players who don't want to be at Barca.

    "The fact that he was not in the [squad] list for today is the consequence of this whole process. The coach has our full support, it's a consistent attitude."

    Dembele has played just six times in LaLiga this season and in just over half of Barca's league games since his arrival four-and-a-half years ago.

    He has managed 31 goals and 22 assists in 129 appearances since his debut in September 2017, meaning he has been directly involved in 0.63 goals per 90 minutes.

    That puts him on a par with compatriots Kingsley Coman and Anthony Martial among players from Europe's top five leagues, and just behind Liverpool star Sadio Mane (0.64).

    His goal tally has also come from an expected goals (xG) of 23.7, suggesting Dembele's finishing has been of a high standard, given the quality of chances that have come his way.

    However, to put Dembele's injury issues into some context, the 129 games he has played for Barca is 91 fewer than team-mate Sergio Busquets over the same period.

    Dembele has reportedly drawn interest from a host of Premier League sides, including newly-rich Newcastle United, as well as Paris Saint-Germain, Juventus and Bayern Munich. 

  • Australian Open: Tiley will not resign as court confirms reasons behind Djokovic deportation Australian Open: Tiley will not resign as court confirms reasons behind Djokovic deportation

    Australian Open chief executive Craig Tiley will not stand down from his position over the handling of the Novak Djokovic case and has refuted claims that Tennis Australia funded the world number one's legal expenses.

    Tiley was speaking after the Federal Court published the written reasons for rejecting Djokovic's appeal to remain in Australia, stating it was "plainly open" to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke that the reigning Australian Open champion was opposed to a COVID-19 vaccination.

    Djokovic failed in his second bid to overturn a decision from the government to cancel his visa on public health grounds at the Federal Court in Melbourne on Sunday, a day before the Australian Open started.

    The 20-time grand slam winner arrived back in Belgrade on Monday, bringing an end to a saga that began after he was held at an airport in Melbourne on January 6 due to his travel declaration form containing incorrect information.

    It was reported this week that Tennis Australia covered all of Djokovic's legal fees, but Tiley – who was jeered by spectators on Thursday while on-court to present flowers to the retiring Samantha Stosur – denied that was the case.

    "I have seen those reports and we don't really go into the detail of financial arrangements we have with players," he told Channel 9. "But those reports are simply untrue."

    Asked if he intended to step aside as chief executive due to the perceived mishandling of the saga, Tiley replied "no" before turning focus to the remainder of the tournament.

    "I am very focused today on delivering a great event," he said.

    "I am proud of being able to stand up here and you can see what is behind us. I am proud of what the team has done and what we have delivered so far."

    Djokovic won his first appeal to avoid deportation from Australia, but Hawke used separate powers to again cancel the 34-year-old's visa.

    That decision was taken amid much backlash in Australia and was upheld unanimously by three judges of the Federal Court's full bench.

    Four days on from that verdict, which denied Djokovic the chance to win a record-extending 10th Australian Open crown, Chief Justice James Allsop delivered the court's reasons for rejecting the challenge.

    It was found that it was reasonable for Hawke to be concerned by Djokovic's high-profile presence in the country as it "may encourage rallies and protests that may lead to heightened community transmission."

    "An iconic tennis star may influence people of all ages, young or old, but perhaps especially the young and the impressionable, to emulate him," Allsop added in his report.

    "This is not fanciful; it does not need evidence.

    "Even if Mr Djokovic did not win the Australian Open, the capacity of his presence in Australia playing tennis to encourage those who would emulate or wish to be like him is a rational foundation for the view that he might foster anti-vaccination sentiment.

    "I consider that behaviour by influential persons and role models, which demonstrates a failure to comply with, or a disregard of, public health measures has the potential to undermine the efficacy and consistency of the Australian Government’s and State and Territory Governments' management of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic.

    "Mr Djokovic is such a person of influence and status. Having regard to the matters set out above regarding Mr Djokovic's conduct after receiving a positive COVID-19 result, his publicly stated views, as well as his unvaccinated status, I consider that his ongoing presence in Australia may pose a risk to the good order of the Australian community."

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