Juventus make De Ligt world's most expensive defender

Dutch central defender Matthijs de Ligt, one of the most coveted young players in world football, signed Thursday for Juventus from Ajax for a fee of 75 million euros ($84.2 million) plus add ons.

The 19-year-old agreed a five-year contract with the Italian champions.

Juventus said in a statement the fee would be paid over five financial years, with "additional costs" of 10.5 million euros.

The combined fee makes De Ligt the world's most expensive defender, surpassing the 84 million euros Liverpool paid to sign his Netherlands teammate Virgil Van Dijk from Southampton in 2018.

De Ligt is Juventus' third most expensive signing after the 105 million euros they paid to buy Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid in 2018 and the 90-million-euro transfer of Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli in 2016.

De Ligt had also been linked with Manchester United, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain after his impressive performances for a young Ajax side that reached the Champions League semi-finals last season.

His Ajax teammate, 22-year-old midfielder Frenkie de Jong, has already joined Barcelona.

In a deal hammered out by his powerful Italian-born Dutch agent Mino Raiola, De Ligt will earn a basic annual salary of 7.5 million euros that could reach 12 million euros with bonuses, according to reports in Italy.

"The sporting project proved decisive" in De Ligt's decision to choose Juventus. "For a defender, Italy is always an ideal place."

- Ageing defence -

The Turin-based club, now coached by former Chelsea mentor Maurizio Sarri, were keen to bring new blood into an ageing defence that features 34-year-old Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, 32.

 De Ligt played 117 games for Ajax in all competitions, scoring 13 goals. He scored the winner in Turin as Ajax eliminated Juventus in the Champions League quarter-finals.

De Ligt has played 17 times for the Netherlands, forming a formidable central defensive partnership with Van Dijk.

He took over the captain's armband at Ajax in March 2018, making him the club's youngest ever captain.

De Ligt said Ronaldo had urged him to join Juventus after the two faced each other for their countries in the Nations League final in June won by Portugal.

Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman says De Ligt "will become one of the best defenders in the world in a short time".

De Ligt is the latest big-money summer transfer following the 120-million-euro deal that took France striker Antoine Griezmann from Atletico Madrid to Barcelona and the 126 million euros that Atletico splashed out on 19-year-old forward Joao Felix from Benfica.

After a disappointing 2018-2019 season, Real Madrid have strengthened with the acquisition of Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard from Chelsea for an initial 100 million euros, with another 34 million euros in potential add-ons.

Premier League champions Manchester City bought Spain international Rodri for a club record 70 million euros (£63 million).


Pain avoided, McDowell allows himself to dream a little

For months, Graeme McDowell was facing the unthinkable — that this week’s British Open, being held in his home town, would take place without him.

Having slumped down the world rankings, falling outside the top 250 in the world this year, the 2010 U.S Open winner was facing a real battle to earn a spot.

The 39-year-old Northern Irishman had missed out on qualification for the last two British Opens and there were only limited ways for him to get a place.

The word among the golfing community of Portrush was that if McDowell didn’t make it, he would keep a commitment to a charity function and a couple of other events before leaving town before the action began.

In the end McDowell, gained his qualification spot with a top-10 finish at the Canadian Open last month but as he prepared for Thursday’s opening round, he admitted the pain of missing out would have been too much.

“I couldn’t stand to be here, it would be too bittersweet. It would be too tough to watch the guys go out there and compete on this place where I kind of learned the game,” he said.

But the process of making sure he was able to at least tee off on Thursday may have sparked something inside a player whose career seemed to be in freefall.

“It’s never easy to sit on the sidelines of the biggest events in the world; Ryder Cups, major championships, events that I became very used to playing in. When you’re sitting at home watching on TV, it’s frustrating. It makes you realise that if the game was gone tomorrow, you’d miss it really badly,” he said.

McDowell could sense that unless he took action, his memories of past glories might be all he had left.

“I think coming to that realisation helped me because it made me start to embrace the challenge a little bit more, enjoy the time I have left out here. I started to kind of get less frustrated and start to enjoy the act of trying to pull myself out of the hole I dug for myself.

“And it’s weird, the fog started to lift a little bit. I finished the year pretty strongly last year, and came out pretty strongly this year.”

McDowell has inevitably been given a warm homecoming welcome in Portrush and he is impressed by the way the Open set-up has taken shape in the town.

But, even as the rain and wind descended on the practice grounds on Wednesday, McDowell couldn’t help but day-dream a little about a major in the town where he cut his teeth at the adjacent Rathmore Club.

“It will be a special moment on the first tee tomorrow. Be very proud. It’s definitely, definitely a special, special week ahead,” he said.

“If I can somehow get out of the blocks tomorrow, get myself settled down, and get into the mix this weekend, it would be pretty cool to be coming back down on Sunday. That’s the vision. That’s the goal and I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like,” he said.

Ewan takes Tour Stage 11, Alaphilippe retains yellow

Australian Caleb Ewan completed his set of grand tour stage victories when the pocket-sized sprinter pipped Dylan Groenewegen to the line to win the 11th stage of the Tour de France, a 167-km flat ride from Albi on Wednesday.

The Lotto Soudal rider surged past Groenewegen in a mass sprint to prevail by a few centimetres, with Italian Elia Viviani taking third place.

Riding the Tour for the first time, Ewan timed his effort perfectly to add to his solitary Vuelta a Espana stage win and his three Giro d’Italia victories.

“I can’t believe it. I’ve been so close in the four last sprint I’ve done. But my team never lost faith in me and I never lost faith in my team,” Ewan, 25, told reporters.

“I knew if everything was coming together, I could be the fastest on the day. With 10km to go, (our lead-out man) Jasper (De Buyst) crashed. I was at the back of the bunch, but Roger (Kluge) came back for me and took me back to Dylan Groenewegen’s wheel in the last kilometre.

“Luckily I had the legs to finish it off. This is a childhood dream come true. There’s no other race that I’ve wanted to win as a kid. The Tour de France is something so distant from Australia, something we watch on TV... it’s fantastic.”

The final sprint was somehow chaotic with a spectator’s phone hitting Niccolo Bonifazio’s helmet with 100 metres to go, ruining the Italian’s chances.

France’s Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey after staying safe in the bunch.

There were no major changes in the overall standings but twice runner-up Nairo Quintana was involved in a pile-up some 30 kilometres from the finish.

He made it back to the peloton, however, before the final sprint with a bruised elbow.

Dutchman Niki Terpstra could not get back on his bike and abandoned the race while former overall leader Giulio Ciccone, who also crashed, was unable to rejoin the pack and dropped out of the top 10 in the general classification.

Breakaway rider Aime De Gendt was reined in by the pack with 4.5 km left after attacking from the start with Frenchmen Stephane Rossetto, Anthony Perez and Lilian Calmejane.

De Gendt saved himself for a late attack, which earned him the day’s combativity award, much to the annoyance of Rossetto, who said the Belgian had not pulled his weight in the breakaway.

“He did not give everything like we did and at the end he goes solo, I’m so angry,” said Rossetto.

Williams doubtful for Saturday's Argentina test

Sonny Bill Williams is unlikely to recover from a hamstring injury in time to play for the New Zealand against Argentina on Saturday, All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster said on Tuesday.

“It’s doubtful,” Foster told reporters when asked about William’s chances of running out against the Pumas in Buenos Aires.

“He’s training really well. He’s grumpy with me from holding him back a little bit today because he is raring to go. He’s feeling really good but we’ve got to make sure we’ve got full strength back into that leg.”

Foster said a final decision would be taken on Thursday when they name their team for the Rugby Championship opener.

Williams, who won the World Cup with New Zealand in 2011 and 2015, has had a hard time with injuries this year.

The 33-year old Auckland Blues back had arthroscopic surgery on his knee in late March and then hurt a hamstring.

Pacquiao camp denies Khan claims over Saudi Arabia bout

Manny Pacquiao has not signed a contract to take on Amir Khan in Saudi Arabia later this year despite claims that a deal has been agreed for the bout, the Filipino’s publicist has said.

Khan, who beat Australia’s Billy Dib in Jeddah on July 13 to win the WBC international welterweight title, said on Tuesday that he had agreed a deal to fight Pacquiao in Riyadh on Nov. 8.

The Briton told British media the clash with Pacquiao would happen even if the 40-year-old were to lose to American Keith Thurman in Las Vegas on Saturday.

“Manny has not signed any contract. As far as I know it has not even been discussed,” Pacquiao’s publicist Fred Sternberg told the BBC.

“He has been in training camp for the past eight weeks, four in the Philippines and four in the United States, and he hasn’t met with Amir Khan during that time.”

Sternberg said he did not know what prompted Khan to make the claims.

“That’s a question you need to ask Amir Khan,” he said.

Khan had been slated to fight eight-division world champion Pacquiao two years ago in the United Arab Emirates but no agreement could be reached.

Pacquiao, one of the sport’s most decorated fighters, has a record of 61 victories, seven defeats and two draws in a career spanning 24 years.

Khan has 34 wins and five defeats.

Lyles to run only 200m at U.S. trials, double in 2020

World 200 metres favourite Noah Lyles has ruled out also running the 100 metres at next week’s U.S. championships/world trials, the sprinter and his coach said.

The longer sprint has always been Lyles’ chief objective for September’s world championships in Doha but fast times this year had whetted his appetite to ponder a potential double.

“I’ve been discussing the idea of running the 100m along with the 200m at the US Champs with Coach over the weekend,” Lyles said in a text message.

“After Lausanne, it was really tempting to go for the 100m as well,” he added, referring to his 200m time of 19.50 seconds that made him the fourth fastest man of all-time at the distance.

“I feel like I’m improving in the 100m every race. But after thinking about it the last couple days, we decided it is better to just stick to the plan we’ve had since the fall and focus on the 200m this year,” Lyles added.

“Well, and the 4x100m!”

The 100-200m double is coming in 2020, the American, who celebrates his 22nd birthday on Thursday, said.

“We have already decided to do the double next year at the Olympic Trials. That’s for sure,” he noted.

His coach, Lance Brauman, confirmed that was the plan.

“And he’ll be ready,” Brauman said. “He’s improved in the 100m even faster than either of us expected.”

This year’s U.S. championships/world trials are set for July 25-28 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Preparation and this being Lyles’ first opportunity to win a world championship played key roles in the decision to run the 200m only, Brauman said in an email.

“All of Noah’s preparation, training and racing this year has been based on him running the 200m in the championship events,” Brauman noted.

“It doesn’t seem wise to go against all of that preparation this late in the game. He’s ready to make his first senior team and show what he can do in the 200m.”

Along with his 200m, which made him the fastest man at the distance since Usain Bolt won the 2012 Olympics, Lyles also ranks joint second best on this year’s 100m world list at 9.86 seconds.

Only compatriot Christian Coleman, who will attempt a double at the U.S. trials, has been faster (9.81).

The two will meet at Des Moines, but it will be in the 200 where Coleman ranks sixth joint fastest at 19.91.

Lack of love fuels Djokovic desire to be top dog

Maybe when the fans start serenading Novak Djokovic in a Centre Court love-in it will be time for the Serb to call it a day.

When he starts receiving the same adoration reserved almost exclusively for Roger Federer in Sunday’s epic Wimbledon final, maybe his resolve will soften, his hunger for the fight diminish, his love of “sticking it to them” fade.

“Hopefully, in five years’ time I can be hearing the same chants,” the 32-year-old Serb said as he signed off his news conference following a five-set win over Federer which sealed a fifth Wimbledon title and 16th Grand Slam crown.

Sunday’s triumph, in which he saved two match points and soaked up 94 winners off the Federer racket before clawing his way over the line in the longest Wimbledon singles final, confirmed Djokovic as the ultimate tennis anti-hero.

Apart from those in his box, it seemed the entire crowd were rooting for Federer. They even booed him near the end when he angrily whacked a court-side microphone.

He had the last laugh.

While Federer and Rafael Nadal are still swinging their rackets, he will behind them in the popularity stakes.

Sheer bloody-mindedness, as well as outrageous talent, is the reason Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, aged almost 38, 33 and 32 respectively, remain out of reach for their pursuers and the reason they share 54 Grand Slam titles, including the last 11.

But while Federer paints the court with strokes of magic and the swashbuckling Nadal plays tennis like a superhero, Djokovic is the master of attrition, winning by a thousand cuts.

No matter that he is arguably the best returner the game has ever seen, is the best athlete and has an engaging personality, there is only so much love to go around.

INCREDIBLE FEATS

For now Djokovic will not care, and if anything will use a perceived lack of fanfare for his incredible feats as fuel to keep collecting Grand Slam titles and move past Federer and Nadal to the top of the all-time list.

“Whether I’m going to be able to do it or not, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not really looking at age as a restriction of any kind for me at least,” Djokovic, the only man since Rod Laver to have held all four Grand Slams simultaneously, said on Sunday.

“It just depends how long I’m going to play, whether I’m going to have a chance to make historic number one or slams.

“It depends not only on myself, it depends on circumstances in life,” the father of two added.

Had Federer converted one of the two match points that came his way at 8-7 in the fifth set he would have moved six Grand Slams clear of Djokovic.

Instead it is four, and having won four of the last five on offer Djokovic appears to be in the middle of a period of domination that shows no sign of ending.

He will go into the U.S. Open as red-hot favourite to retain his title and when next year begins he will have his eyes fixed on winning an eighth Australian Open crown.

Former coach Boris Becker says the race is now on and believes all three will add to their tallies.

But time, perhaps, is on Djokovic’s side.

“He’s a year younger than Nadal and five younger than Federer — we all know he fancies overtaking them,” Becker said. “Honestly, I think he can, but I wouldn’t say that for sure.”

Hamilton takes record sixth British GP win

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton hailed his home fans after celebrating a record sixth British Grand Prix win on Sunday and stretching his lead over luckless Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas to 39 points.

Bottas, on pole position, finished a distant second after a safety car period turned the race decisively in Hamilton’s favour by handing the home favourite a free pitstop in a thrilling race.

It was Hamilton’s seventh win in 10 races this season and 80th of his career.

The five-times world champion, now on 223 points to Bottas’s 184, also banged in a late fastest lap, on a set of tyres that had already done 30 laps, to secure an extra point.

“Ah, what a day! I love you Silverstone,” Hamilton exclaimed over the radio after rapper Stormzy had waved the chequered flag, with Bottas 24.9 seconds behind.

Ferrari’s Monegasque Charles Leclerc was third after team mate Sebastian Vettel rammed into the back of Red Bull’s young charger Max Verstappen.

Vettel, who had been third but finished 16th, had to pit for a new front wing and collected a 10-second time penalty for causing the collision.

Verstappen ended up fifth and behind his French team mate Pierre Gasly.

Victory lifted Hamilton clear of Frenchman Alain Prost and the late Jim Clark, who both won five times in Britain, and the champion pulled over to collect a Union Jack from a marshal on his cool-down lap.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am to be here today,” declared Hamilton, interviewed by 2009 champion Jenson Button after parking up.

“So many British flags out there and I could see them lap after lap. Every year I’ve been coming I’ve seen it and noticed it and appreciated it. You’d think you’d get used to something like that but I tell you, it feels like the first time.”

SAFETY CAR

Hamilton and Bottas battled for the first few laps, with the Finn losing and retaking the lead, but the decisive moment came when Italian Antonio Giovinazzi spun his Alfa Romeo into the gravel on lap 20.

Bottas had pitted three laps earlier but Hamilton had yet to come in for fresh tyres and was able to take advantage and pit without losing position for hard tyres that took him to the finish.

Behind the Mercedes pair, 21-year-olds Leclerc and Verstappen kept the crowd enthralled with a wheel-to-wheel reprise of their duel in Austria two weeks earlier.

Time and again they battled for position, their positioning inch perfect and with Leclerc being every bit as tough on Verstappen as the Dutch driver had been to him at sunny Spielberg.

Vettel, who had pitted with Hamilton when the safety car was deployed, then rammed into the back of the Red Bull on lap 38 after Verstappen had gone past around the outside of Stowe corner.

“He passed me and then ran a bit wide, which gave me the chance to come back,” said the German.

“It looked for a second that he was going to the right and there would be a gap on the left which didn’t open and by that time it was too late and I crashed.”

Spaniard Carlos Sainz was sixth for McLaren, ahead of Renault’s Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen.

Russian Daniil Kvyat was ninth for Toro Rosso and Nico Hulkenberg took the final point for Renault on a good day for the French manufacturer.

More Tour de France joy for Impey with stage win

South African Daryl Impey added an individual stage win to his Tour de France happy memories when he prevailed at the end of a long breakaway from St Etienne on Sunday.

The Mitchelton Scott rider, who wore the race’s yellow jersey for a couple of days in 2013, beat Belgian Tiesj Benoot in a two-man sprint after the duo went clear from the day’s breakaway.

Slovenia’s Jan Tratnik took third place, 10 seconds behind as France’s Julian Alaphilippe retained the overall lead after 170.5 kilometres with the top guns enjoying an easy day on a bumpy stage nine.

Frenchman Romain Bardet, a two-time podium finisher who has already lost considerable ground in the general classification, attacked in the Cote de St Just (3.6km at 7.2%), 13km from the finish.

He was followed by Dutchman Steven Kruijswijk and Australian Richie Porte, but the trio were easily reined in by defending champion Geraint Thomas’s Ineos team.

Following a hectic finale in Saturday’s eighth stage which saw Frenchman Thibaut Pinot gain almost half a minute on Thomas and the defending champion take a tumble, there were no fireworks on Bastille Day.

A 15-man breakaway, featuring former Tour individual stage winners Tony Martin and Edvald Boasson Hagen, opened a gap of more than 10 minutes but none were a threat to Alaphilippe’s overall lead.

Italian Alessandro De Marchi was taken to a hospital with facial injuries after a nasty crash, his CCC team said.

The three-time Vuelta a Espane stage winner crashed after eight kilometres and was first attended to by the race’s medical staff as he laid with his face on the deck.

In the front, Benoot and Impey emerged as the strongest men at top of the Cote de St Just and the South African, who snatched the yellow jersey in Nice six years ago when his team won the time trial, was the fastest to the line.

The main bunch crossed more than 16 minutes later.

Monday’s 10th stage is a 217.5-km ride from St Flour to Albi, where the race will enjoy its first rest day on Tuesday.

Wait goes on for Williams as inspired Halep wins Wimbledon

Serena Williams remained tantalisingly one short of a record-equalling 24 Grand Slam singles titles as Simona Halep thrashed the off-key American in a one-sided Wimbledon final on Saturday.

Halep began the week halting American 15-year-old Coco Gauff’s dream run and will end it at the Champions Ball after dismantling seven-times winner Williams 6-2 6-2 with an inspired display on Centre Court.

She is Romania’s first Wimbledon singles champion.

The 27-year-old set the tone by breaking the Williams serve in the opening game and raced into a 4-0 lead in front of 15,000 incredulous fans.

She remained rock solid throughout, making only three unforced errors in a remarkable display of defence mixed with clinical counter-punching. Williams simply could not respond.

Even when Williams fired herself up at the start of the second set and began thumping the ball with her customary power, seventh seed Halep refused to back off.

Halep weathered the squall, then reeled off the last five games of what she described as the match of her life.

Williams has now lost three Grand Slam finals without winning a set since returning to action last March, following the birth of daughter Olympia in September 2017.

But this was the most chastening as she lasted only 56 minutes before biffing a forehand into the net — her 26th unforced error — to end the contest.

It was the second shortest Wimbledon final since Martina Navratilova thrashed Andrea Jaeger in 1983, one minute longer than Petra Kvitova’s trouncing of Eugenie Bouchard five years ago.

“She played out of her mind,” Williams, who had won nine of her previous 10 matches against Halep, said on court after picking up the runners-up salver for the second straight year, having ran into a similarly inspired Angelique Kerber last year.

“It was a little bit a deer in headlights for me. Whenever a player plays like that you just have to take your hat off.”

Until Saturday the only other Romanian to reach a Wimbledon final was Ilie Nastase who finished runner-up in 1972 and 1976. Halep went one better as she added the Wimbledon crown to the French Open she won in 2018.

‘MOTHER’S DREAM’

Halep said it had been her “mother’s dream” for her to hold aloft the Venus Rosewater Dish.

Victory means she becomes a lifetime Wimbledon member.

“I wanted this badly,” she said. “When I started the tournament, I talked to the people from the locker room that my dream is to become a member here. So today it’s real.

“I’m very sure that was the best match of my life.”

After losing to Kerber a year ago, then to Naomi Osaka in a stormy U.S. Open final, Williams, 37, hoped it would be third time lucky to finally move level with Australian Margaret Court on the all-time list of Grand Slam title collectors.

Despite having only five tournaments under her belt this year, Williams, who won her first Wimbledon title in 2002, had looked calm and composed en route to her 11th Wimbledon final.

If she thought she could put down an early marker she was mistaken as three unforced errors in the opening game handed Halep an unexpected gift of an early break.

Halep grew in stature and could not miss. Williams, on the other hand, looked tight and lacked feel.

There was strong support for Williams, including of the royal variety with friend Meghan Markle joining the Duchess of Cambridge in a crammed Royal Box.

But it was Halep who wowed the fans, haring across the turf to whip a superb backhand on her way to a second break which she sealed with a flashing backhand return winner.

Williams served 45 aces en route to the final but it was Halep who served the first one on Saturday to move 4-0 ahead.

It was 13 minutes before Williams even got the scoreboard ticking. “Wake up Serena” someone yelled as Halep served for the first set at 5-2. It fell on deaf ears as a shanked forehand return ended the set after 26 minutes.

Halep knew there would be a backlash and Williams raised the decibel level at the start of the second set, bent double, fists clenched and bellowing after a volleyed winner.

Williams led 2-1 but Halep’s scampering was making her play an extra shot in every rally, many of which were wild ones.

At 2-2 Halep scooped up a ball she had no right to reach and Williams lurched forward to blaze a backhand long.

The end came quickly. Halep broke again for 5-2 and showed no nerves as she calmly held to claim the title Williams craved.

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