After a breathtaking week of Champions League football, this edition of On The Ball analyses the repercussions of the latest round of European fixtures, as well as looking at some of Europe’s top clubs.
Esports expansion for Manchester City
After crashing out of the Champions League at the hands of Liverpool, Manchester City announced a new partnership with renowned Korean gaming provider Nexon.
Nexon will become City’s official social football gaming partner in South Korea, helping the club expand its presence in the esports industry as well as enriching the ‘FIFA online 4’ experience for City fans.
Jeonghun Lee, the CEO of Nexon commented: “It’s a great honour to work shoulder to shoulder with one of the Premier League’s leading football clubs, and I hope our partnership will diversify both the online and offline football experience for FIFA Online 4 players.”
Damian Willoughby, Senior VP of Partnerships at City Football Club added: “We are delighted to announce this partnership and welcome Nexon to the City family. Nexon is a worldwide leader in free-to-play games that shares our commitment in providing innovative and immersive experiences for a global audience.
“FIFA Online is one of Nexon’s most successful titles and one of the most recognised titles in Asia, boasting a passionate community of online users. Through this partnership, we look forward to engaging with FIFA online users in Korea and enhancing the game they love by developing in-game experiences and digital content.
“We are also delighted to be extending our footprint in Korea, an important market for Manchester City, and doing so with a partner who will help us to further engage with our fans here.”
A new coliseum in Rome
Just prior to the Giallorossi’s gladiator like comeback against Barcelona in the week, Roma President Jim Pallotta met with other key figures at the club to further discuss the possibility of building Roma a new home.
The Serie A side currently share the Stadio Olimpico with rivals Lazio, but have had plans approved to move into a new 55,000 seater stadium in the Tor Di Valle area of Rome.
In a statement released when approval for the new plans was given, American owner Pallotta stated: “I’m delighted because I know what this decision could mean for Rome itself, for our club’s future and for our fans – and we want to give them the home they deserve.”
Buffon blasts English official after controversial penalty
Goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon has continued his tirade against Michael Oliver, after the English referee awarded Lucas Vazquez a penalty in the dying moments of Real Madrid’s Champions League quarter final tie against Juventus.
Buffon’s immediate reaction led to the legendary goalkeeper seeing a red card and being replaced in the Juventus goal by Wojciech Szczęsny, who unsuccessfully attempted to save Cristiano Ronaldo’s decisive penalty.
The penalty ended hopes of a comeback for the Italian champions, having previously overturned a three goal deficit from the first leg. However, speaking after the game, Buffon said: “It was a tenth of a penalty. I know the referee saw what he saw, but it was certainly a dubious incident. Not clear-cut. And a dubious incident at the 93rd minute when we had a clear penalty denied in the first leg, you cannot award that at this point.
“The team gave its all, but a human being cannot destroy dreams like that at the end of an extraordinary comeback on a dubious situation. Clearly you cannot have a heart in your chest, but a bag of rubbish. On top of that, if you don’t have the character to walk on a pitch like this in a stadium like this, you can sit in the stands with your wife, your kids, having your drink and eating crisps.”
He added: “You cannot ruin the dreams of a team. I could’ve told the referee anything at that moment, but he had to understand the degree of the disaster he was creating. If you can’t handle the pressure and have the courage to make a decision, then you should just sit in the stands and eat your crisps.”
PSG in trouble with Uefa
In spite of cruising to a French league title, an early Champions League exit means this campaign will be regarded as a poor one for Paris Saint Germain (PSG), and Uefa could be about to make it worse.
European football’s governing body has told PSG that they could face sanctions for breaches of Financial Fair Play (FFP), which relate to the club’s transfer dealings last Summer when they signed Neymar for £198m and Kylian Mbappe on loan with an option to buy for £167m.
The excessive spending by the Qatar owned club caused much unrest around European football and led to the President of La Liga, Javier Tebas accusing PSG of “financial doping”. Furthermore, it’s believed that a key element of the investigation is related a lucrative sponsorship deal the club has with the Qatar Tourism Authority.
United’s new stadium dilemma
Manchester United’s long term ambitions to expand Old Trafford took a setback, as the club’s Managing Director, Richard Arnold revealed he can’t see a way of expanding the ground without leaving the club temporarily “homeless”.
It has been touted that Old Trafford could grow its 74,994 to 88,000, with the construction coming in the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand. It would follow numerous complaints from the club’s manager Jose Mourinho over the atmosphere at the Theatre of Dreams this season, something which also led to the club lowering ticket prices in tier one of the Stretford End for 18-25 year olds.
Bayern heading back to the States
After edging past Spanish side Seville to book a place in the last four of the Champions League, German champions, Bayern Munich announced that they would be returning to the United States in the Summer.
The club has played a key focus on the US market having previously toured the States in 2016, it’s believed that the club will announce their opponents in the coming days, however it seems highly likely that a reunion with Chicago Fire’s Bastian Schweinsteiger is on the cards.