Tag Archives: eventual

Either Manchester City or United will win the Barclays Premier League title: Gary Neville

The title is now a two-horse race and both are from Manchester



23:19 GMT, 8 December 2012

My gut feeling assessing the Manchester derby on Sunday is to say that this is just another three points in a long season.

I want to argue that, in my years of
fighting for titles and having watched several races unfold, Sunday's
result will not have a pivotal influence on the eventual outcome.

I would add that it is far too early to judge and that there are too many twists and turns to come.

Golden touch: City forward David Silva celebrates scoring in the 6-1 derby win at Old Trafford last season

Golden touch: City forward David Silva
celebrates scoring in the 6-1 derby win
at Old Trafford last season

Either of these sides are capable of
putting a 10- or 15- game unbeaten run together. And either team could
be struck down with injuries.

There is so much more to be played out. Remember, it was just over a year
ago, in October 2011, that Manchester City beat Manchester United 6-1 at
Old Trafford and the headlines the day after were 'Power Shift' and
'This Will Herald A New Era'.

More from Gary Neville…

Gary Neville: Chelsea's players must be living on a knife-edge

Gary Neville: Brave, ruthless, relentless: Ronaldo redefined football

Gary Neville: Why Manchester City are still searching for their own identity

Gary Neville: Nine great reasons why RVP can become a Manchester United legend

Gary Neville: Why both Chelsea and Manchester United would accept a 1-0 win at the Bridge

Gary Neville: AVB deserves a second chance… good managers – and some great ones – have failed before

Gary Neville: Rooney is in the same mould as Robson, Adams and Keane

Gary Neville: A lack of belief is all that separates the London rivals


But seven weeks later, when City lost at Chelsea, another headline read: 'Title Race Blown Wide Open'. Normally I would use those examples to demonstrate how quickly our perceptions of the title race can change.

But then my mind goes back to that
dramatic last day of the season, to Sergio Aguero's injury-time goal, to
the United players looking bemused and downcast at the Stadium of Light
and to City's ecstatically celebrating the title – on goal difference.

I said in April last year, before that climax to the season, that it would be Sir Alex Ferguson's worst nightmare to lose a title race on goal difference and that he had always emphasised to us the importance of winning a game 3-0 or 4-0 once we were in control, precisely because of that possibility. And I remember Sir Alex congratulating City immediately after they had won the title, but then saying: 'This will never happen again.'

On Sunday, those United players that were at the Stadium of Light, who experienced the bitterness of losing the title, will be reminded of that: it can never happen again. Because although we can overstate the importance of individual games, when it came down to it, the goal difference City accrued in October last year at Old Trafford proved crucial.

And those United players will receive another reminder from Sir Alex that, were they to lose at the Etihad Stadium, they would again be knocked off the top spot by City – on goal difference. And that's why this game has become the most important fixture in English football.

Low point: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson leaves the pitch after losing 6-1 against City

Low point: United manager Sir Alex Ferguson leaves the pitch after losing 6-1 against City

I've seen both United and City nine times this season and there is nothing to choose between them.

The title race is between these two. I don't see any other team with the mental strength, durability and character that these clubs possess. They haven't been at their best yet and if there's one thing I would want to see on Sunday it's a step up in quality so that it is a magnificent game that befits the Premier League's strongest clubs, with exciting attacking cancelled out by concentrated defending.

But make no mistake, these are the best teams in England right now.

United have been better in attack, they have had more creative play and are more unpredictable.

But City have been more resolute defensively, grinding out results without the flair of United but with more stability. So Roberto Mancini will want to see that spark again to ignite his team. He would want to see Edin Dzeko, David Silva, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasir firing again.

And Sir Alex, with most of his defenders fit, would want to start keeping clean sheets, to see his side become difficult to beat and pick up 1-0 wins rather than the 4-3 victories.

No love lost: Ferguson clashes with City manager Roberto Mancini (right)

No love lost: Ferguson clashes with City manager Roberto Mancini (right)

But do I think that if United win, City will have suffered a crucial blow in retaining their title No.

And if City win, does that mean they will go on and win the League No.

The reason why it's impossible to call between these two is because of that mentality they now show.

Last season, City made good the mental deficit they had always had when competing against United, that feeling that they would always fail at the last. The 6-1 win at Old Trafford, the crucial 1-0 win at the Etihad in April which put them back on top of the table and finally winning the League has given them a psychological strength that only a title win can provide.

Now both sides have a level of mental strength unmatched by the teams around them. You can see it in the early-season form. Whether it be in United's ability to
come from behind or City's knack of winning when not at their best, they
have demonstrated courage to stay in games and ability to grind out

Who will have the edge: Ferguson (right) does not need to remind his players they lost the title on goal difference

Who will have the edge: Ferguson (right) does not need to remind his players they lost the title on goal difference

Even when City have suffered disappointments in the Champions League, they have been able to bounce back in the Premier League. So when they lost in the final minutes at Real Madrid, they were able to draw against Arsenal that Sunday. When they went down 3-1 at Ajax, they beat Swansea the following Saturday.

Both of these sides are capable of withstanding a setback on Sunday and coming back to win the title. But at the same time, the race is likely to be so close that this result could be significant.

Anyone who says they know who will win this is guessing. And if anyone tells you they know who will be champions after Sunday, you can ignore them.

All that we can say for sure is that last season showed these Manchester derby games have the potential to be decisive – even if it's impossible to say exactly how at this point.

Give him a hand: UEFA president Michel Platini has a plan

Give him a hand: UEFA president Michel Platini has a plan

Plantini's big idea has potential

UEFA president Michel Platini has suggested that the Euro 2020 Championship will be in a multitude of countries rather than in one or two host nations.

I think we need to hear the details before we form a fixed view as to whether it can be a success or not.

Because if it's a tournament that takes place in six different cities within an hour's flight of one another, then it could be incredibly successful.

Imagine London, Cardiff, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels and Dortmund being the host cities.

That would be easier to manage for all fans and for teams than the tournaments we've been at recently in South Africa or the Ukraine and Poland and certainly more condensed than the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

But if, for political reasons, Platini ends up giving games to Istanbul, Moscow, London, Reykjavik, Lisbon and Rome, you are talking about a fad.

All of those cities would be perfectly good hosts on their own.

But the geographical spread would make it a nightmare for players and fans.

I know what I expect to happen. But let's hope that UEFA can salvage a good idea out of this.

Hal-Robson Kanu relishing Arsenal reunion

Robson-Kanu relishing Arsenal reunion after winging his way back to the top with Reading



17:56 GMT, 30 October 2012

It's 2004, and a small but skilful teenage winger is being told by Arsenal, his boyhood team, that he is not strong enough or fast enough to progress further at the club.

The 15-year-old is told he can stay for one more season, but his chances of playing will be limited.

Undeterred, the headstrong lad leaves and starts a remarkable eight-year journey that will culminate on Tuesday night when he comes up against the club that let him go.

Bring it on: Reading's Hal Robson-Kanu (right) is looking forward to facing Arsenal

Bring it on: Reading's Hal Robson-Kanu (right) is looking forward to facing Arsenal

The tale of Hal Robson-Kanu, Reading's 23-year-old winger, whose last-gasp equaliser rescued a point against Fulham on Saturday, is cautionary and inspiring.

It includes two serious cruciate ligament injuries, loan spells in League One and an eventual rise to Premier League and international football.

As Robson-Kanu says: 'Some people can't believe how far I've come and how quickly.'

To fully appreciate his journey, first we must rewind to his Arsenal days.

Robson-Kanu grew up in west London and joined the club as a 10-year-old.

Jay Simpson, now of Hull, was in his age group while Fabrice Muamba, formerly of Bolton, and Matthew Connolly, now of Cardiff, were a year ahead.

In the younger ranks were Emmanuel Frimpong and a certain Jack Wilshere.

'It was brilliant to be part of that,' reflects Robson-Kanu. 'But I was one of the smallest players in the squad. I wasn't fast enough, strong enough or big enough.

Bulking up: Arsenal reckoned Robson-Kanu was too small to make it

Bulking up: Arsenal reckoned Robson-Kanu was too small to make it

'Arsenal said they knew I had the quality to be a football player and were happy for me to stay another year till I was 16, but because of my size and physical attributes they said if another club wanted to take me then they would let me go.'

It's a message that countless young, technically gifted footballers have heard over the decades.

Many have fallen by the wayside, but fortunately for Robson-Kanu he had caught the eye of a progressive young manager who saw past his physical deficiencies.

'Brendan Rodgers was the academy manager at Reading and he liked what he had seen of me,' says Robson-Kanu.

'He told me I would progress through the ranks and become a first-team player and I liked what he had to say.

'A few other clubs came in for me but I chose Reading and haven't looked back since.'

His development, however, was twice checked by serious injury.

National service: Robson-Kanu is a Wales international

National service: Robson-Kanu is a Wales international

'I was out for nearly three years. I was 16 when I did my cruciate ligament for the first time in a youth game and then 17-and-a-half when it happened again,' says Robson-Kanu.

'It was a tough period and anyone who has been through that kind of thing knows how hard you have to work to get back to the level you were at before and in my case to an even better level.'

Comeback and improve he did. Loan spells at Swindon and Southend provided valuable first-team experience and caps at England Under 19 and 20 level followed.

And by the end of the 2009-2010 season, half a decade after he had left Arsenal, Robson-Kanu had established himself in the Reading first team and made his senior Wales debut, having switched allegiances from England.

As he prepares to face Arsenal for the first time as a professional, he feels no bitterness or resentment.

'It is a fantastic club with a fantastic ethos. It was a great grounding and we had some great coaches – Neil Banfield (now first-team coach), Steve Bould (now assistant manager) and Dermot Drummy (now Chelsea reserve manager),' he says.

'They've changed their policy now and don't let players go at that age without giving them a proper chance to grow and develop.

'Within two years of leaving Arsenal I had grown upwards and outwards and got stronger and faster.

'We played Arsenal in a youth team game a few years after I had left and their coaches, Steve Bould and Liam Brady, couldn't believe it when they saw me again. They came over afterwards and were shocked at the size of me.'

On Tuesday, Robson-Kanu, all 6ft 1in and 85kg of him, will be hoping to shock his old club once again.

Novak Djokovic beats Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in China Open final

Djokovic seals third China Open title after seeing off Tsonga in straight sets



13:02 GMT, 7 October 2012

Top seed Novak Djokovic captured his third successive China Open title on Sunday with a straight-sets victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

The Serbian took just one hour and 42 minutes to dispose of his French rival, winning 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to capture his 32nd career trophy and 530,570 US dollars winner's cheque.

Despite the eventual outcome Tsonga
started strongly, breaking Djokovic, but the favourite struck back to
take the set to a tie break, where he did not look back after going 3-0

Sealed with a kiss: Djokovic saw off the challenge from Tsonga to win in China

Sealed with a kiss: Djokovic saw off the challenge from Tsonga to win in China

The second set was more one-sided as Djokovic broke in the third game and repeated the trick to claim the title.

Djokovic admitted the first set could
have gone either way. He said on www.atpworldtour.com: 'I think the
first set was really even, and maybe a couple of points decided the
winner there.

'I managed to hold my nerves in the
end. When you're getting to the second set with the set advantage,
mentally it is much more encouraging for you and then you try to play on
that confidence run that you have.

Serb and volley: The world No 2 celebrates his victory be performing the 'Gangnam Style' dance

Serb and volley: The world No 2 celebrates his victory be performing the 'Gangnam Style' dance

'I made that early break in the second (and) I felt much more comfortable on the court.'

The Serbian has now set his sights on finishing the year as world No 1, having seen Roger Federer move back ahead of him.

Outclassed: Tsonga was soundly beaten

Outclassed: Tsonga was soundly beaten

He said: 'That's the target. This will definitely help me in that race, but it's still quite open.

'There are still tournaments to come, big ones. Shanghai, obviously the first 1000 event that is next week.

'I want to try to get as far as I can in the tournament, obviously taking one match at a time as I always do.'

Tsonga accepted that his opponent's class told in the end.

'I think it was a good match,' the Frenchman said. I missed maybe something in the middle of the first set.

'I was a break up, and I was playing well. But then he played solid. It was really difficult to control him. I just tried to play my game, to be aggressive, but against a player like this, for the moment, my level is not high enough, and it's not enough to beat him.

'I'm happy because I played good tennis here. It was a great tournament for me. I hope I will continue to improve like this and I will try another time to beat these guys next week.'

Meanwhile, Kei Nishikori stunned big-serving Milos Raonic 7-6, 3-6, 6-0 with an electrifying display of attacking tennis to become the host country's first Japan Open champion on Sunday.

It was the eighth seed's second career title after winning in Delray Beach in 2008 and will elevate the 22-year-old from 17th to 15th in the world rankings.

Goal from triple dummy at corner – video

Check out the triple dummy… is this the most outrageous goal from a corner ever



11:40 GMT, 3 October 2012

It's the sort of fixture that you are
likely to find on Eurosport and will only watch if the TV remote is
more than a foot away or you just watch any football that comes on the

But if you was lucky enough to catch the highlights of Moldova's Under 17 match with Serbia, you
would have witnessed one of the more amusing set-pieces seen in recent

Serbia Under-17s

Serbia Under-17s

From a corner kick, Serbia played a short pass to the edge of the penalty area, which resulted in three attackers performing dummies before Andrija Zivkovic buried his first-time strike into the bottom corner.

Three players performing the distraction seems a bit excessive, and the statue-like defending as well as the Moldovan keeper being anchored to the spot only aid the eventual goal.

Watch the video

Still, it beats your over-paid Premier League right winger delivering yet another corner to be easily headed away at the near post and credit must be given to Zivkovic.

The pass to the forward took a ridiculous amount of bobbles before he found the sweet spot, making him a handy option for a number of Premier League sides facing tricky FA Cup away trips to the lower leagues in a few months' time.

England v South Africa: Kevin Pietersen can be the difference

The clash of the titans: All it needs is one flash of genius, so come on KP!



23:29 GMT, 18 July 2012

All it might take is a moment of brilliance, that one exceptional innings or an inspired spell of bowling, to decide who becomes the undisputed best Test team in the world. It could well be that close.

The short, sharp Test series that begins, unusually, at The Kia Oval has all the makings of a classic, with two heavyweights about to probe away at each other looking for the opening that could lead to that one big knockout punch.

It is the sort of match-up that a boxing promoter could only dream of. In one corner are champions England, unbeaten in seven home Test series since a South Africa side led by a certain Graeme Smith ended the captaincy of Michael Vaughan four years ago, and now sitting at the top of the world rankings.

At the ready: Andrew Strauss and England will take on South Africa with the world No 1 Test ranking at stake

At the ready: Andrew Strauss and England will take on South Africa with the world No 1 Test ranking at stake

Oval omens

0 per cent: SA win percentage at the Oval. Out of their 13 Tests there, they’ve drawn seven and lost six. It is the only ground in England where they have never won.

93: South Africa’s lowest total at The Oval, in the second innings of their 10-wicket defeat in August 1912

492: SA’s highest score at The Oval, their ‘lowest’ top score of all grounds in England — 492-8 in the drawn Test of 1929

57: But beware, SA have a 57 per cent winning record at Lord’s, the venue for the final Test

In the other corner are the bruising South African challengers, boasting an extraordinary unbeaten away record back to 2006 and believing themselves to be the true No 1s. This, over just three matches, is their chance to prove it, even though they must begin their attempt at an Oval ground where they have not won in 13 Tests. Something has to give.

Everywhere you look there are fascinating sub-plots integral to the eventual outcome. Will it be Jimmy Anderson or Dale Steyn who emerges on top of the battle of the best attack leaders in the world Will Smith, the reluctant captain slayer, cut off the head of a third England leader in Andrew Strauss to go along with those of Vaughan and, before him, Nasser Hussain

And, perhaps most pertinently, will Smith’s bete noire Kevin Pietersen be able to forget the latest storm to engulf him, this time over his somewhat botched one-day retirement, and maintain his superlative form against the country of his birth

Relaxed: England undergo final training before facing South Africa

Relaxed: England undergo final training before facing South Africa

It was perhaps inevitable that Strauss
had to field questions about Pietersen, but he dealt with them in the
same calm, measured style that he will hope to use against Steyn and
Morne Morkel, who has dismissed the England captain and his opening
partner Alastair Cook six times each in Test cricket, more than any
other batsmen.

The ‘will he, won’t he retire’ saga involving Pietersen has been a distraction to England as they embark on an Investec series which will end with the victors ranked as No 1, even though South Africa dropped to three in the latest ICC rankings below Australia.

‘The conversations Kevin has been having were between himself, his representatives and the board,’ said Strauss.

‘The players and management haven’t been involved and that’s the way we’d like it to remain. It hasn’t been a distraction for us. It hasn’t entered our thinking. Kevin as much as anyone is determined to do well in this series.’

Floored genius: Could Kevin Pietersen be the difference between the two sides

Floored genius: Could Kevin Pietersen be the difference between the two sides

Both Pietersen and England will certainly need to be at their absolute best to keep South Africa at bay. It was clear from the way Smith, who will make his 100th Test appearance here, spoke that South Africa believe themselves to be a better, more consistent team than England in all conditions.

Annoyingly for them, it has been their home form that has let them down. ‘We understand what we need to do well and it’s just up to us to go out there and put it all into practice,’ said Smith.

The South Africa captain, nine years
in charge even though he is just 31, baulks whenever he is reminded that
his last two visits here have ended in English tears with both Hussain
and Vaughan resigning.

Weight of expectation: England are favourites to retain their crown, but must get off to a solid start at The Oval

Weight of expectation: England are favourites to retain their crown, but must get off to a solid start at The Oval

‘It’s not something I think about. It’s just that myself and our team have come along at the right time,’ said Smith. ‘I don’t take any pride in seeing an England captain sitting there in tears resigning, certainly not. Nasser and Michael are two guys I have a lot of respect for and Andrew has earned that respect too. I want to focus on South Africa and how we can perform at our best.’

Perhaps, though, Smith realises that it is him who is the more likely of the two captains to be under pressure to stand down after the final Test at Lord’s has ended by August 20. He handed over the one-day leadership to AB de Villiers after the last World Cup and offered to resign the Test leadership ahead of this tour, only to be talked out of it by coach Gary Kirsten.

‘I want to play international cricket for a while yet but will I be captain for all that time I don’t know. I think that’s something that will unfold with time,’ said Smith.

Fierce competitor: Graeme Smith is looking for his second successive series win in England

Fierce competitor: Graeme Smith is looking for his second successive series win in England

It will unfold over the next month. England are a much better side than the one beaten here in 2008 and the one who held South Africa to a 1-1 draw on their last visit there.

They are particularly formidable at home and here at The Oval where they would be happy to see a repeat of the dry, turning pitch that so upset Australia in 2009 as Graeme Swann, despite admitting that his chronic right elbow problem is a ‘concern’, can be expected to outbowl Imran Tahir.

Then it would just need that little bit of genius to inspire England and who better to provide it than Pietersen, in superb form and again the centre of attention with a point to prove. I take England to win the series 2-1 with Pietersen in the thick of the action. He would not want it any other way.

Euro 2012 awards: Goal, player, save, surprise

Euro 2012 awards: Zlatan put on a volley good show, and so did our fans



21:37 GMT, 1 July 2012

It's been a strange European Championship, packed with spectacular highs and career-ending lows. Here Sportsmail breaks down the elements that made this tournament one of the most memorable


The group stages brought us much to admire. Poland’s exit, for example, deprived us of some bright young players. The very best play their best when needed most, though. Take a step forward Andrea Pirlo.


He may have a split-personality and he may think himself three times as good as he actually is. But Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s falling volley for Sweden in Kiev was a goal of a lifetime moment. And it was against France so he gets double points.

Take Zlat: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a spectacular volley against France

Take Zlat: Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored a spectacular volley against France


Sadly we have none from the England versus Italy shoot-out. Joe Hart was too busy gurning on his goal line to dive the right way. But check out the double-save Croatia’s Stipe Pletikosa pulled off to deny Antonio Cassano in his team’s eventual defeat to Italy. It was 0-0 at the time and it was superb.


For sheer majesty, drama and a sense of history, it has to be beautiful Warsaw. The view from the Old Town across to the National Stadium is stunning. Book a flight now. If that fails, try Lviv in Ukraine. Pretty and cheaper, too.


Hard to believe the tourist trade in grimy old Kharkiv will be booming after this. Too small, too grumpy and lacking in charm, this was a poor choice of venue. Maybe Michel Platini has family there.

See you in the pub: Ukraine manager Oleg Blokhin

See you in the pub: Ukraine manager Oleg Blokhin


It simply has to be the Ukraine’s Oleg Blokhin. You would probably have to pay, he would disagree with everything you said and he may even try to fight you. But it wouldn’t be dull and the chances are that you would be wearing the better clothes.


Poland’s Franciszek Smuda resigned after his team went out and perhaps it was for the best. Never has a man approached a potentially life-defining experience with less vim and vigour. Surly, aggressive and argumentative. We got on well.


‘There’s only one Lionel Messi’, sang the Spanish fans – all 37 of them – to Cristiano Ronaldo after his peculiar failure to take a penalty in Donetsk left his claim to be the little Argentine’s superior once more open to very real question yet again.


‘Russia! Russia’ sang the neutrals during that same semi-final, a game that took place between Spain and Portugal in Donetsk, a city in the Ukraine. Work that one out.


20,000 Swedes who came to Kiev and spent two weeks camping by the river
and occasionally watching some football deserve our admiration. Before
UEFA started to make them as inaccessible as possible, this is what
summer tournaments always used to be about.


good behaviour of England’s travelling fans should be mentioned here.
There were times when they would have occupied this category without
fail. However, this dubious honour goes to the Russians who still
haven’t worked out that football is not an excuse to try and start
another world war.

Ugly scenes: Thankfully there was little trouble, although Russia and Poland let everybody down when the two teams met in the group stages

Ugly scenes: Thankfully there was little trouble, although Russia and Poland let everybody down when the two teams met in the group stages


England winning their group and managing to score five goals without ever seeming to have the ball. Given the shambolic build-up, the dearth of proper footballers in his squad and his own hurried preparation, Roy Hodgson will likely look back and wonder how he did it.


Enterprising, attacking football is alive and well in Europe. When we are watching 32 teams slug it out in Brazil in two years’ time we may yearn for the ambitious, energetic football of EURO 2012.


The old fashioned centre forward is threatening to become a thing of the past. Spain – the best team out here – are not helping. It’s time to safeguard the future of the number nine.

Home boy: Andriy Shevchenko produced his own fairytale moment with two goals in Ukraine's first game

Home boy: Andriy Shevchenko produced his own fairytale moment with two goals in Ukraine's first game


One advantage of dual hosts is that you get two home countries playing. But though seeing Poland’s Robert Lewandowski score the tournament’s first goal on June 9 was thrilling enough, nothing can compare with Andriy Shevchenko rising from the dead to head two goals in Ukraine’s defeat of Sweden in Kiev. It didn’t last. But Ukraine enjoyed that night and so did I.


Major tournaments are becoming too expensive for most fans to attend. UEFA must address this. Venues must be chosen more carefully and greater pressure must be placed on airlines and hotel chains to keep prices down.


That UEFA will in fact do absolutely nothing about this. Platini is now talking about future tournaments incorporating host cities scattered across Europe. His baffling answer this weekend when asked about the cost to supporters was: ‘They can use budget airlines.’ Maybe they can eat cake while they are on board.


I spent much of this tournament gushing over the Germans, however Spain reached the final without even playing their finest football. They remain the team to beat.
most demanding media


Move over you English bloodhounds, meet the Ukrainians. Clad in replica shirts, they hound their manager, berate the opposition and heckle the officials. The Germans aren’t far behind, though. Yesterday their newspapers were criticising their players for not singing the national anthem loud enough.

Real Madrid legend Raul opts to join Qatari outfit Al Sadd after ending Schalke stint

Real Madrid legend Raul opts to join Qatari outfit Al Sadd after ending Schalke stint



01:35 GMT, 13 May 2012

Qatari club Al Sadd have confirmed the signing of former Spain striker Raul from the start of next season.

The 34-year-old announced last month that he would be leaving Schalke at the end of the campaign, despite having proved a hit in Gelsenkirchen since arriving from Real Madrid in 2010.

His destination was unknown, but Al Sadd said on their website that he will be their player for the 2012/13 campaign.

A new chapter: Raul

A new chapter: Raul

He will be unveiled at a press conference on Sunday.

'Al Sadd will hold a press conference on Sunday, May 13 to present Spanish star Raul Gonzalez, who is contracted to the team for the 2012/13 season,' the club statement read.

Raul revealed at a press conference on April 19 that he would play his club football outside Europe for the first time next season, adding that the time was right to move to 'a less competitive league' after turning down the offer of a new deal from Schalke.

He insisted being able to spend more time with his family was the key factor in his decision, and that his eventual destination would depend more on them than on money.

'I definitely have the self-confidence to play in a tough league, but it is more about the family,' he said.

'I have not been able to spend much time with them lately. The Bundesliga is so demanding that you cannot spend so long with them.

'We will now look at the offers and see what gives me the most time for family life.'

Raul attained legendary status during his many years as a first-team regular at Real Madrid, and left the Bernabeu holding club records for appearances (741) and goals (323).